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Cell. 1997 Aug 8;90(3):549-58.

Huntingtin-encoded polyglutamine expansions form amyloid-like protein aggregates in vitro and in vivo.

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Max-Planck-Institut für Molekulare Genetik, Berlin, Germany.


The mechanism by which an elongated polyglutamine sequence causes neurodegeneration in Huntington's disease (HD) is unknown. In this study, we show that the proteolytic cleavage of a GST-huntingtin fusion protein leads to the formation of insoluble high molecular weight protein aggregates only when the polyglutamine expansion is in the pathogenic range. Electron micrographs of these aggregates revealed a fibrillar or ribbon-like morphology, reminiscent of scrapie prions and beta-amyloid fibrils in Alzheimer's disease. Subcellular fractionation and ultrastructural techniques showed the in vivo presence of these structures in the brains of mice transgenic for the HD mutation. Our in vitro model will aid in an eventual understanding of the molecular pathology of HD and the development of preventative strategies.

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