[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Huntington's disease is an autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disorder caused by a CAG expansion mutation in HTT, the gene encoding huntingtin. Evidence from both human genotype-phenotype relationships and mouse model systems suggests that the mutation acts by dysregulating some normal activity of huntingtin. Recent work in the mouse has revealed a role for huntingtin in epigenetic regulation during development. Here we examine the role of the Drosophila huntingtin ortholog (dhtt) in chromatin regulation in the development of the fly. Although null dhtt mutants display no overt phenotype, we found that dhtt acts as a suppressor of position effect variegation (PEV), suggesting that it influences chromatin organization. We demonstrate that dhtt affects heterochromatin spreading in a PEV model by modulating histone H3K9 methylation levels at the heterochromatin-euchromatin boundary. To gain mechanistic insights into how dhtt influences chromatin function, we conducted a candidate genetic screen using RNAi lines targeting known PEV modifier genes. We found that dhtt modifies phenotypes caused by knockdown of a number of key epigenetic regulators, including chromatin-associated proteins, histone demethylases and methyltransferases. Notably, dhtt strongly modifies phenotypes resulting from loss of the histone demethylase dLsd1, in both the ovary and wing, and we demonstrate that dhtt appears to act as a facilitator of dLsd1 function in regulating global histone H3K4 methylation levels. These findings suggest that a fundamental aspect of huntingtin function in heterochromatin/euchromatin organization is evolutionarily conserved across phyla.
Human Molecular Genetics 08/2014; · 7.69 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background: The CAG triplet repeat expansion mutation in the HTT locus, which results in neurodegeneration in Huntington's disease, elongates a polyglutamine tract in huntingtin, a HEAT/HEAT-like protein that has been highly structurally conserved through evolution. In several organisms, huntingtin is necessary for proper cell-cell adhesion and normal development. Objective: Dictyostelium discoideum huntingtin null (htt−) cells display a variety of developmental abnormalities and completely fail to acquire EDTA-resistant homotypic cell adhesion during starvation in suspension culture. Methods: Here, we have assessed the hypothesis that htt may be a genetic interactor of csaA, a major regulator of EDTA-resistant homotypic cell adhesion in D. discoideum. Immunoblot analysis demonstrated that csaA protein expression is dysregulated in htt− cells. Results: Unexpectedly, csaA overexpression, previously shown to rescue csaA− cell adhesion, failed to rescue the htt− adhesion defect. Thus, while htt was required for proper expression of the csaA protein, csaA overexpression was not sufficient to confer EDTA-resistant adhesion in the context of the htt− genetic background in contrast to parental cells. This implies a novel role for htt in conferring csaA-dependent, EDTA-resistant cell adhesion that warrants further investigation. Calcium supplementation restored both endogenous csaA protein levels and EDTA-resistant adhesion in htt− cells. Conclusions: Our data suggests the existence of an additional mechanism that overcomes the EDTA-resistant adhesion defect of htt− cells in the early development of D. discoideum.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Transcriptional dysregulation has long been recognized as central to the pathogenesis of Huntington's disease (HD). MicroRNAs (miRNAs) represent a major system of post-transcriptional regulation, by either preventing translational initiation or by targeting transcripts for storage or for degradation. Using next-generation miRNA sequencing in prefrontal cortex (Brodmann Area 9) of twelve HD and nine controls, we identified five miRNAs (miR-10b-5p, miR-196a-5p, miR-196b-5p, miR-615-3p and miR-1247-5p) up-regulated in HD at genome-wide significance (FDR q-value<0.05). Three of these, miR-196a-5p, miR-196b-5p and miR-615-3p, were expressed at near zero levels in control brains. Expression was verified for all five miRNAs using reverse transcription quantitative PCR and all but miR-1247-5p were replicated in an independent sample (8HD/8C). Ectopic miR-10b-5p expression in PC12 HTT-Q73 cells increased survival by MTT assay and cell viability staining suggesting increased expression may be a protective response. All of the miRNAs but miR-1247-5p are located in intergenic regions of Hox clusters. Total mRNA sequencing in the same samples identified fifteen of 55 genes within the Hox cluster gene regions as differentially expressed in HD, and the Hox genes immediately adjacent to the four Hox cluster miRNAs as up-regulated. Pathway analysis of mRNA targets of these miRNAs implicated functions for neuronal differentiation, neurite outgrowth, cell death and survival. In regression models among the HD brains, huntingtin CAG repeat size, onset age and age at death were independently found to be inversely related to miR-10b-5p levels. CAG repeat size and onset age were independently inversely related to miR-196a-5p, onset age was inversely related to miR-196b-5p and age at death was inversely related to miR-615-3p expression. These results suggest these Hox-related miRNAs may be involved in neuroprotective response in HD. Recently, miRNAs have shown promise as biomarkers for human diseases and given their relationship to disease expression, these miRNAs are biomarker candidates in HD.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The length of the huntingtin (HTT) CAG repeat is strongly correlated with both age at onset of Huntington's disease (HD) symptoms and age at death of HD patients. Dichotomous analysis comparing HD to controls is widely used to study the effects of HTT CAG repeat expansion. However, a potentially more powerful approach is a continuous analysis strategy that takes advantage of all of the different CAG lengths, to capture effects that are expected to be critical to HD pathogenesis.
We used continuous and dichotomous approaches to analyze microarray gene expression data from 107 human control and HD lymphoblastoid cell lines. Of all probes found to be significant in a continuous analysis by CAG length, only 21.4% were so identified by a dichotomous comparison of HD versus controls. Moreover, of probes significant by dichotomous analysis, only 33.2% were also significant in the continuous analysis. Simulations revealed that the dichotomous approach would require substantially more than 107 samples to either detect 80% of the CAG-length correlated changes revealed by continuous analysis or to reduce the rate of significant differences that are not CAG length-correlated to 20% (n = 133 or n = 206, respectively). Given the superior power of the continuous approach, we calculated the correlation structure between HTT CAG repeat lengths and gene expression levels and created a freely available searchable website, "HD CAGnome," that allows users to examine continuous relationships between HTT CAG and expression levels of ∼20,000 human genes.
Our results reveal limitations of dichotomous approaches compared to the power of continuous analysis to study a disease where human genotype-phenotype relationships strongly support a role for a continuum of CAG length-dependent changes. The compendium of HTT CAG length-gene expression level relationships found at the HD CAGnome now provides convenient routes for discovery of candidates influenced by the HD mutation.
PLoS ONE 01/2014; 9(4):e95556. · 3.53 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In patients with Huntington's disease (HD), the protein huntingtin (Htt) has an expanded polyglutamine (poly-Q) tract. HD results in early loss of medium spiny neurons in the striatum, which impairs motor and cognitive functions. Identifying the physiological role and molecular functions of Htt may yield insight into HD pathogenesis. We found that Htt promotes signaling by mTORC1 [mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) complex 1] and that this signaling is potentiated by poly-Q-expanded Htt. Knocking out Htt in mouse embryonic stem cells or human embryonic kidney cells attenuated amino acid-induced mTORC1 activity, whereas overexpressing wild-type or poly-Q-expanded Htt in striatal neuronal cells increased basal mTOR activity. Striatal cells expressing endogenous poly-Q-expanded Htt showed an increase in the number and size of mTOR puncta on the perinuclear regions compared to cells expressing wild-type Htt. Pull-down experiments indicated that amino acids stimulated the interaction of Htt and the guanosine triphosphatase (GTPase) Rheb (a protein that stimulates mTOR activity), and that Htt forms a ternary complex with Rheb and mTOR. Pharmacologically inhibiting PI3K (phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase) or knocking down Rheb abrogated mTORC1 activity induced by expression of a poly-Q-expanded amino-terminal Htt fragment. Moreover, striatum-specific deletion of TSC1, encoding tuberous sclerosis 1, a negative regulator of mTORC1, accelerated the onset of motor coordination abnormalities and caused premature death in an HD mouse model. Together, our findings demonstrate that mutant Htt contributes to the pathogenesis of HD by enhancing mTORC1 activity.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background: Huntington's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder, typically with clinical manifestations in adult years, caused by an expanded polyglutamine-coding repeat in HTT. There are no treatments that delay or prevent the onset or progression of this devastating disease. Objective and Methods: In order to study its pre-symptomatic molecular progression and provide a large mammalian model for determining natural history of the disease and for therapeutic testing, we generated and previously reported on lines of transgenic sheep carrying a full length human HTT cDNA transgene, with expression driven by a minimal HTT promoter. We report here further characterization of our preferred line, OVT73. Results: This line reliably expresses the expanded human huntingtin protein at modest, but readily detectable levels throughout the brain, including the striatum and cortex. Transmission of the 73 unit glutamine coding repeat was relatively stable over three generations. At the first time-point of a longitudinal study, animals sacrificed at 6 months (7 transgenic, 7 control) showed reduced striatum GABA A 1 receptor, and globus pallidus leu-enkephalin immunoreactivity. Two of three 18 month old animals sacrificed revealed cortical neuropil aggregates. Furthermore, neuronal intranuclear inclusions were identified in the piriform cortex of a single 36 month old animal in addition to cortical neuropil aggregates. Conclusions: Taken together, these data indicate that the OVT73 transgenic sheep line will progressively reveal early HD pathology and allow therapeutic testing over a period of time relevant to human patients.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Huntington's disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by motor, cognitive, and behavioral disturbances. It is caused by the expansion of the HTT CAG repeat, which is the major determinant of age at onset (AO) of motor symptoms. Aberrant function of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors and/or overexposure to dopamine has been suggested to cause significant neurotoxicity, contributing to HD pathogenesis. We used genetic association analysis in 1,628 HD patients to evaluate candidate polymorphisms in N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor subtype genes (GRIN2A rs4998386 and rs2650427, and GRIN2B rs1806201) and functional polymorphisms in genes in the dopamine pathway (DAT1 3' UTR 40-bp variable number tandem repeat (VNTR), DRD4 exon 3 48-bp VNTR, DRD2 rs1800497, and COMT rs4608) as potential modifiers of the disease process. None of the seven polymorphisms tested was found to be associated with significant modification of motor AO, either in a dominant or additive model, after adjusting for ancestry. The results of this candidate-genetic study therefore do not provide strong evidence to support a modulatory role for these variations within glutamatergic and dopaminergic genes in the AO of HD motor manifestations.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The genetics of complex disease produce alterations in the molecular interactions of cellular pathways whose collective effect may become clear through the organized structure of molecular networks. To characterize molecular systems associated with late-onset Alzheimer's disease (LOAD), we constructed gene-regulatory networks in 1,647 postmortem brain tissues from LOAD patients and nondemented subjects, and we demonstrate that LOAD reconfigures specific portions of the molecular interaction structure. Through an integrative network-based approach, we rank-ordered these network structures for relevance to LOAD pathology, highlighting an immune- and microglia-specific module that is dominated by genes involved in pathogen phagocytosis, contains TYROBP as a key regulator, and is upregulated in LOAD. Mouse microglia cells overexpressing intact or truncated TYROBP revealed expression changes that significantly overlapped the human brain TYROBP network. Thus the causal network structure is a useful predictor of response to gene perturbations and presents a framework to test models of disease mechanisms underlying LOAD.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In Huntington's disease (HD), the size of the expanded HTT CAG repeat mutation is the primary driver of the processes that determine age at onset of motor symptoms. However, correlation of cellular biochemical parameters also extends across the normal repeat range, supporting the view that the CAG repeat represents a functional polymorphism with dominant effects determined by the longer allele. A central challenge to defining the functional consequences of this single polymorphism is the difficulty of distinguishing its subtle effects from the multitude of other sources of biological variation. We demonstrate that an analytical approach based upon continuous correlation with CAG size was able to capture the modest (∼21%) contribution of the repeat to the variation in genome-wide gene expression in 107 lymphoblastoid cell lines, with alleles ranging from 15 to 92 CAGs. Furthermore, a mathematical model from an iterative strategy yielded predicted CAG repeat lengths that were significantly positively correlated with true CAG allele size and negatively correlated with age at onset of motor symptoms. Genes negatively correlated with repeat size were also enriched in a set of genes whose expression were CAG-correlated in human HD cerebellum. These findings both reveal the relatively small, but detectable impact of variation in the CAG allele in global data in these peripheral cells and provide a strategy for building multi-dimensional data-driven models of the biological network that drives the HD disease process by continuous analysis across allelic panels of neuronal cells vulnerable to the dominant effects of the HTT CAG repeat.
Human Molecular Genetics 04/2013; · 7.69 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Huntington's disease (HD) is an autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disorder caused by the expansion of a CAG trinucleotide repeat in the HTT gene encoding huntingtin. The disease has an insidious course, typically progressing over 10-15 years until death. Currently there is no effective disease-modifying therapy. To better understand the HD pathogenic process we have developed genetic HTT CAG knock-in mouse models that accurately recapitulate the HD mutation in man. Here, we describe results of a broad, standardized phenotypic screen in 10-46 week old heterozygous HdhQ111 knock-in mice, probing a wide range of physiological systems. The results of this screen revealed a number of behavioral abnormalities in HdhQ111/+ mice that include hypoactivity, decreased anxiety, motor learning and coordination deficits, and impaired olfactory discrimination. The screen also provided evidence supporting subtle cardiovascular, lung, and plasma metabolite alterations. Importantly, our results reveal that a single mutant HTT allele in the mouse is sufficient to elicit multiple phenotypic abnormalities, consistent with a dominant disease process in patients. These data provide a starting point for further investigation of several organ systems in HD, for the dissection of underlying pathogenic mechanisms and for the identification of reliable phenotypic endpoints for therapeutic testing.
PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(11):e80923. · 3.53 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Large intergenic noncoding (linc) RNAs represent a newly described class of ribonucleic acid whose importance in human disease remains undefined. We identified a severely developmentally delayed 16-year-old female with karyotype 46,XX,t(2;11)(p25.1;p15.1)dn in the absence of clinically significant copy number variants (CNVs). DNA capture followed by next-generation sequencing of the translocation breakpoints revealed disruption of a single noncoding gene on chromosome 2, LINC00299, whose RNA product is expressed in all tissues measured, but most abundantly in brain. Among a series of additional, unrelated subjects referred for clinical diagnostic testing who showed CNV affecting this locus, we identified four with exon-crossing deletions in association with neurodevelopmental abnormalities. No disruption of the LINC00299 coding sequence was seen in almost 14,000 control subjects. Together, these subjects with disruption of LINC00299 implicate this particular noncoding RNA in brain development and raise the possibility that, as a class, abnormalities of lincRNAs may play a significant role in human developmental disorders.
The American Journal of Human Genetics 12/2012; 91(6):1128-34. · 11.20 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Huntington's disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects muscle coordination and diminishes cognitive abilities. The genetic basis of the disease is an expansion of CAG repeats in the Huntingtin (Htt) gene. Here we aimed to generate a series of mouse neural stem (NS) cell lines that carried varying numbers of CAG repeats in the mouse Htt gene (Hdh CAG knock-in NS cells) or that had Hdh null alleles (Hdh knock-out NS cells). Towards this end, Hdh CAG knock-in mouse ES cell lines that carried an Htt gene with 20, 50, 111, or 140 CAG repeats or that were Htt null were neuralized and converted into self-renewing NS cells. The resulting NS cell lines were immunopositive for the neural stem cell markers NESTIN, SOX2, and BLBP and had similar proliferative rates and cell cycle distributions. After 14days in vitro, wild-type NS cells gave rise to cultures composed of 70% MAP2(+) neurons and 30% GFAP(+) astrocytes. In contrast, NS cells with expanded CAG repeats underwent neuronal cell death, with only 38%±15% of the MAP2(+) cells remaining at the end of the differentiation period. Cell death was verified by increased caspase 3/7 activity on day 14 of the neuronal differentiation protocol. Interestingly, Hdh knock-out NS cells treated using the same neuronal differentiation protocol showed a dramatic increase in the number of GFAP(+) cells on day 14 (61%±20% versus 24%±10% in controls), and a massive decrease of MAP2(+) neurons (30%±11% versus 64%±17% in controls). Both Hdh CAG knock-in NS cells and Hdh knock-out NS cells showed reduced levels of Bdnf mRNA during neuronal differentiation, in agreement with data obtained previously in HD mouse models and in post-mortem brain samples from HD patients. We concluded that Hdh CAG knock-in and Hdh knock-out NS cells have potential as tools for investigating the roles of normal and mutant HTT in differentiated neurons and glial cells of the brain.
Neurobiology of Disease 10/2012; · 5.62 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the relationship of striatal involvement in Huntington disease (HD) to involvement in other brain regions, CAG repeat size, onset age, and other factors. METHODS: We examined patterns of neuropathologic involvement in 664 HD brains submitted to the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center. Brains with concomitant Alzheimer or Parkinson changes (n = 82), more than 20% missing data (n = 46), incomplete sample submission (n = 12), or CAG repeat less than 36 (n = 1) were excluded, leaving 523 cases. Standardized ratings from 0 (absent) to 4 (severe) of gross and microscopic involvement were performed for 50 regions. Cluster analysis reduced the data to 2 main measures of involvement: striatal and cortical. RESULTS: The clusters were correlated with each other (r = 0.42) and with disease duration (striatal: r = 0.35; cortical: r = 0.31). The striatal cluster was correlated with HD repeat size (r = 0.50). The cortical cluster showed a stronger correlation with decreased brain weight (r = -0.52) than the striatal cluster (r = -0.33). The striatal cluster was correlated with younger death age (r = -0.31) and onset age (r = -0.46) while the cortical cluster was not (r = 0.09, r = -0.04, respectively). CONCLUSIONS: The 2 brain clusters had different relationships to the HD CAG repeat size, onset age, and brain weight, suggesting that neuropathologic involvement does not proceed in a strictly coupled fashion. The pattern and extent of involvement varies substantially from one brain to the next. These results suggest that regional involvement in HD brain is modified by factors which, if identified, may lend insight into novel routes to therapeutics.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of many neurological disorders has been greatly enhanced by the discovery of mutations in genes linked to familial forms of these diseases. These have facilitated the generation of cell and animal models that can be used to understand the underlying molecular pathology. Recently, there has been a surge of interest in the use of patient-derived cells, due to the development of induced pluripotent stem cells and their subsequent differentiation into neurons and glia. Access to patient cell lines carrying the relevant mutations is a limiting factor for many centres wishing to pursue this research. We have therefore generated an open-access collection of fibroblast lines from patients carrying mutations linked to neurological disease. These cell lines have been deposited in the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) Repository at the Coriell Institute for Medical Research and can be requested by any research group for use in in vitro disease modelling. There are currently 71 mutation-defined cell lines available for request from a wide range of neurological disorders and this collection will be continually expanded. This represents a significant resource that will advance the use of patient cells as disease models by the scientific community.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Huntington's disease (HD) is an inherited neurodegenerative disorder characterized by motor, cognitive and behavioral disturbances, caused by the expansion of a CAG trinucleotide repeat in the HD gene. The CAG allele size is the major determinant of age at onset (AO) of motor symptoms, although the remaining variance in AO is highly heritable. The rs7665116 SNP in PPARGC1A, encoding the mitochondrial regulator PGC-1α, has been reported to be a significant modifier of AO in three European HD cohorts, perhaps due to affected cases from Italy. We attempted to replicate these findings in a large collection of (1,727) HD patient DNA samples of European origin. In the entire cohort, rs7665116 showed a significant effect in the dominant model (p value = 0.008) and the additive model (p value = 0.009). However, when examined by origin, cases of Southern European origin had an increased rs7665116 minor allele frequency (MAF), consistent with this being an ancestry-tagging SNP. The Southern European cases, despite similar mean CAG allele size, had a significantly older mean AO (p < 0.001), suggesting population-dependent phenotype stratification. When the generalized estimating equations models were adjusted for ancestry, the effect of the rs7665116 genotype on AO decreased dramatically. Our results do not support rs7665116 as a modifier of AO of motor symptoms, as we found evidence for a dramatic effect of phenotypic (AO) and genotypic (MAF) stratification among European cohorts that was not considered in previously reported association studies. A significantly older AO in Southern Europe may reflect population differences in genetic or environmental factors that warrant further investigation.