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Cell. 1998 Jun 12;93(6):939-49.

Expanded polyglutamine protein forms nuclear inclusions and causes neural degeneration in Drosophila.

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Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania and University of Pennsylvania Medical School, Philadelphia 19104, USA.


Spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 (SCA3/MJD) is one of at least eight human neurodegenerative diseases caused by glutamine-repeat expansion. We have recreated glutamine-repeat disease in Drosophila using a segment of the SCA3/MJD protein. Targeted expression of the protein with an expanded polyglutamine repeat led to nuclear inclusion (NI) formation and late-onset cell degeneration. Differential sensitivity to the mutant transgene was observed among different cell types, with neurons being particularly susceptible; NI formation alone was not sufficient for degeneration. The viral antiapoptotic gene P35 mitigated polyglutamine-induced degeneration in vivo. Our results demonstrate that cellular mechanisms of human glutamine-repeat disease are conserved in invertebrates. This fly model will aid in identifying additional factors that modulate neurodegeneration.

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