Marcy E MacDonald

Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

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Publications (249)1925.71 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Huntington disease (HD) is caused by an expanded HTT CAG repeat that leads in a length-dependent, completely dominant manner to onset of a characteristic movement disorder. HD also displays early mortality, so we tested whether the expanded CAG repeat exerts a dominant influence on age at death and on the duration of clinical disease. We found that, as with clinical onset, HD age at death is determined by expanded CAG-repeat length and has no contribution from the normal CAG allele. Surprisingly, disease duration is independent of the mutation's length. It is also unaffected by a strong genetic modifier of HD motor onset. These findings suggest two parsimonious alternatives. (1) HD pathogenesis is driven by mutant huntingtin, but before or near motor onset, sufficient CAG-driven damage occurs to permit CAG-independent processes and then lead to eventual death. In this scenario, some pathological changes and their clinical correlates could still worsen in a CAG-driven manner after disease onset, but these CAG-related progressive changes do not themselves determine duration. Alternatively, (2) HD pathogenesis is driven by mutant huntingtin acting in a CAG-dependent manner with different time courses in multiple cell types, and the cellular targets that lead to motor onset and death are different and independent. In this scenario, processes driven by HTT CAG length lead directly to death but not via the striatal pathology associated with motor manifestations. Each scenario has important ramifications for the design and testing of potential therapeutics, especially those aimed at preventing or delaying characteristic motor manifestations.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2016 · The American Journal of Human Genetics
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    ABSTRACT: Huntington's Disease (HD) is a devastating neurodegenerative disorder that is caused by an expanded CAG trinucleotide repeat in the Huntingtin (HTT) gene. Transcriptional dysregulation in the human HD brain has been documented but is incompletely understood. Here we present a genome-wide analysis of mRNA expression in human prefrontal cortex from 20 HD and 49 neuropathologically normal controls using next generation high-throughput sequencing. Surprisingly, 19% (5,480) of the 28,087 confidently detected genes are differentially expressed (FDR<0.05) and are predominantly up-regulated. A novel hypothesis-free geneset enrichment method that dissects large gene lists into functionally and transcriptionally related groups discovers that the differentially expressed genes are enriched for immune response, neuroinflammation, and developmental genes. Markers for all major brain cell types are observed, suggesting that HD invokes a systemic response in the brain area studied. Unexpectedly, the most strongly differentially expressed genes are a homeotic gene set (represented by Hox and other homeobox genes), that are almost exclusively expressed in HD, a profile not widely implicated in HD pathogenesis. The significance of transcriptional changes of developmental processes in the HD brain is poorly understood and warrants further investigation. The role of inflammation and the significance of non-neuronal involvement in HD pathogenesis suggest anti-inflammatory therapeutics may offer important opportunities in treating HD.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2015 · PLoS ONE
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    ABSTRACT: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs that recognize sites of complementarity of target messenger RNAs, resulting in transcriptional regulation and translational repression of target genes. In Huntington's disease (HD), a neurodegenerative disease caused by a trinucleotide repeat expansion, miRNA dyregulation has been reported, which may impact gene expression and modify the progression and severity of HD. We performed next-generation miRNA sequence analysis in prefrontal cortex (Brodmann Area 9) from 26 HD, 2 HD gene positive, and 36 control brains. Neuropathological information was available for all HD brains, including age at disease onset, CAG-repeat size, Vonsattel grade, and Hadzi-Vonsattel striatal and cortical scores, a continuous measure of the extent of neurodegeneration. Linear models were performed to examine the relationship of miRNA expression to these clinical features, and messenger RNA targets of associated miRNAs were tested for gene ontology term enrichment. We identified 75 miRNAs differentially expressed in HD brain (FDR q-value <0.05). Among the HD brains, nine miRNAs were significantly associated with Vonsattel grade of neuropathological involvement and three of these, miR-10b-5p, miR-10b-3p, and miR-302a-3p, significantly related to the Hadzi-Vonsattel striatal score (a continuous measure of striatal involvement) after adjustment for CAG length. Five miRNAs (miR-10b-5p, miR-196a-5p, miR-196b-5p, miR-10b-3p, and miR-106a-5p) were identified as having a significant relationship to CAG length-adjusted age of onset including miR-10b-5p, the mostly strongly over-expressed miRNA in HD cases. Although prefrontal cortex was the source of tissue profiled in these studies, the relationship of miR-10b-5p expression to striatal involvement in the disease was independent of cortical involvement. Correlation of miRNAs to the clinical features clustered by direction of effect and the gene targets of the observed miRNAs showed association to processes relating to nervous system development and transcriptional regulation. These results demonstrate that miRNA expression in cortical BA9 provides insight into striatal involvement and support a role for these miRNAs, particularly miR-10b-5p, in HD pathogenicity. The miRNAs identified in our studies of postmortem brain tissue may be detectable in peripheral fluids and thus warrant consideration as accessible biomarkers for disease stage, rate of progression, and other important clinical characteristics of HD.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2015 · BMC Medical Genomics
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    ABSTRACT: Importance Identifying measures that are associated with the cytosine-adenine-guanine (CAG) expansion in individuals before diagnosis of Huntington disease (HD) has implications for designing clinical trials.Objective To identify the earliest features associated with the motor diagnosis of HD in the Prospective Huntington at Risk Observational Study (PHAROS).Design, Setting, and Participants A prospective, multicenter, longitudinal cohort study was conducted at 43 US and Canadian Huntington Study Group research sites from July 9, 1999, through December 17, 2009. Participants included 983 unaffected adults at risk for HD who had chosen to remain unaware of their mutation status. Baseline comparability between CAG expansion (≥37 repeats) and nonexpansion (<37 repeats) groups was assessed. All participants and investigators were blinded to individual CAG analysis. A repeated-measures analysis adjusting for age and sex was used to assess the divergence of the linear trend between the expanded and nonexpanded groups. Data were analyzed from April 27, 2010, to September 3, 2013.Exposure Huntington disease mutation status in individuals with CAG expansion vs without CAG expansion.Main Outcomes and Measures Unified Huntington’s Disease Rating Scale motor (score range, 0-124; higher scores indicate greater impairment), cognitive (symbol digits modality is the total number of correct responses in 90 seconds; lower scores indicate greater impairment), behavioral (score range, 0-176; higher scores indicate greater behavioral symptoms), and functional (Total Functional Capacity score range, 0-13; lower scores indicate reduced functional ability) domains were assessed at baseline and every 9 months up to a maximum of 10 years.Results Among the 983 research participants at risk for HD in the longitudinal cohort, 345 (35.1%) carried the CAG expansion and 638 (64.9%) did not. The mean (SD) duration of follow-up was 5.8 (3.0) years. At baseline, participants with expansions had more impaired motor (3.0 [4.2] vs 1.9 [2.8]; P < .001), cognitive (P < .05 for all measures except Verbal Fluency, P = .52), and behavioral domain scores (9.4 [11.4] vs 6.5 [8.5]; P < .001) but not significantly different measures of functional capacity (12.9 [0.3] vs 13.0 [0.2]; P = .23). With findings reported as mean slope (95% CI), in the longitudinal analyses, participants with CAG expansions showed significant worsening in motor (0.84 [0.73 to 0.95] vs 0.03 [−0.05 to 0.11]), cognitive (−0.54 [−0.67 to −0.40] vs 0.22 [0.12 to 0.32]), and functional (−0.08 [−0.09 to −0.06] vs −0.01 [−0.02 to 0]) measures compared with those without expansion (P < .001 for all); behavioral domain scores did not diverge significantly between groups.Conclusions and Relevance Using these prospectively accrued clinical data, relatively large treatment effects would be required to mount a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial involving premanifest HD individuals who carry the CAG expansion.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2015
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Huntington's disease (HD) is a dominantly inherited disease caused by a CAG expansion mutation in HTT. The age at onset of clinical symptoms is determined primarily by the length of this CAG expansion but is also influenced by other genetic and/or environmental factors. Objective: Recently, through genome-wide association studies (GWAS) aimed at discovering genetic modifiers, we identified loci associated with age at onset of motor signs that are significant at the genome-wide level. However, many additional HD modifiers may exist but may not have achieved statistical significance due to limited power. Methods: In order to disseminate broadly the entire GWAS results and make them available to complement alternative approaches, we have developed the internet website "GeM MOA" where genetic association results can be searched by gene name, SNP ID, or genomic coordinates of a region of interest. Results: Users of the Genetic Modifiers of Motor Onset Age (GeM MOA) site can therefore examine support for association between any gene region and age at onset of HD motor signs. GeM MOA's interactive interface also allows users to navigate the surrounding region and to obtain association p-values for individual SNPs. Conclusions: Our website conveys a comprehensive view of the genetic landscape of modifiers of HD from the existing GWAS, and will provide the means to evaluate the potential influence of genes of interest on the onset of HD. GeM MOA is freely available at https://www.hdinhd.org/.
    No preview · Article · Sep 2015 · Journal of Huntington's disease
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    ABSTRACT: Huntington disease (HD) reflects the dominant consequences of a CAG-repeat expansion in HTT. Analysis of common SNP-based haplotypes has revealed that most European HD subjects have distinguishable HTT haplotypes on their normal and disease chromosomes and that ∼50% of the latter share the same major HD haplotype. We reasoned that sequence-level investigation of this founder haplotype could provide significant insights into the history of HD and valuable information for gene-targeting approaches. Consequently, we performed whole-genome sequencing of HD and control subjects from four independent families in whom the major European HD haplotype segregates with the disease. Analysis of the full-sequence-based HTT haplotype indicated that these four families share a common ancestor sufficiently distant to have permitted the accumulation of family-specific variants. Confirmation of new CAG-expansion mutations on this haplotype suggests that unlike most founders of human disease, the common ancestor of HD-affected families with the major haplotype most likely did not have HD. Further, availability of the full sequence data validated the use of SNP imputation to predict the optimal variants for capturing heterozygosity in personalized allele-specific gene-silencing approaches. As few as ten SNPs are capable of revealing heterozygosity in more than 97% of European HD subjects. Extension of allele-specific silencing strategies to the few remaining homozygous individuals is likely to be achievable through additional known SNPs and discovery of private variants by complete sequencing of HTT. These data suggest that the current development of gene-based targeting for HD could be extended to personalized allele-specific approaches in essentially all HD individuals of European ancestry. Copyright © 2015 The American Society of Human Genetics. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2015 · The American Journal of Human Genetics
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    ABSTRACT: The HTT CAG expansion mutation causes Huntington's Disease and is associated with a wide range of cellular consequences, including altered metabolism. The mutant allele is expressed widely, in all tissues, but the striatum and cortex are especially vulnerable to its effects. To more fully understand this tissue-specificity, early in the disease process, we asked whether the metabolic impact of the mutant CAG expanded allele in heterozygous B6.HdhQ111/+ mice would be common across tissues, or whether tissues would have tissue-specific responses and whether such changes may be affected by diet. Specifically, we cross-sectionally examined steady state metabolite concentrations from a range of tissues (plasma, brown adipose tissue, cerebellum, striatum, liver, white adipose tissue), using an established liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry pipeline, from cohorts of 8 month old mutant and wild-type littermate mice that were fed one of two different high-fat diets. The differential response to diet highlighted a proportion of metabolites in all tissues, ranging from 3% (7/219) in the striatum to 12% (25/212) in white adipose tissue. By contrast, the mutant CAG-expanded allele primarily affected brain metabolites, with 14% (30/219) of metabolites significantly altered, compared to wild-type, in striatum and 11% (25/224) in the cerebellum. In general, diet and the CAG-expanded allele both elicited metabolite changes that were predominantly tissue-specific and non-overlapping, with evidence for mutation-by-diet interaction in peripheral tissues most affected by diet. Machine-learning approaches highlighted the accumulation of diverse lipid species as the most genotype-predictive metabolite changes in the striatum. Validation experiments in cell culture demonstrated that lipid accumulation was also a defining feature of mutant HdhQ111 striatal progenitor cells. Thus, metabolite-level responses to the CAG expansion mutation in vivo were tissue specific and most evident in brain, where the striatum featured signature accumulation of a set of lipids including sphingomyelin, phosphatidylcholine, cholesterol ester and triglyceride species. Importantly, in the presence of the CAG mutation, metabolite changes were unmasked in peripheral tissues by an interaction with dietary fat, implying that the design of studies to discover metabolic changes in HD mutation carriers should include metabolic perturbations.
    No preview · Article · Aug 2015 · PLoS ONE
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    ABSTRACT: Huntington's disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by involuntary choreic movements, cognitive impairment, and behavioral changes, caused by the expansion of an unstable CAG repeat in HTT. We characterized the genetic diversity of the HD mutation by performing an extensive haplotype analysis of ∼1Mb region flanking HTT in over 300 HD families of Portuguese origin. We observed that haplotype A, marked by HTT delta2642, was enriched in HD chromosomes and carried the two largest expansions reported in the Portuguese population. However, the most frequent HD haplotype B carried one of the largest (+12 CAGs) expansions, which resulted in an allele class change to full penetrance. Despite having a normal CAG distribution skewed to the higher end of the range, these two core haplotypes had similar expanded CAG repeat sizes compared to the other major core haplotypes (C and D) and there was no statistical difference in transmitted repeat instability across haplotypes. We observed a diversity of HTT region haplotypes in both normal and expanded chromosomes, representative of more than one ancestral chromosome underlying HD in Portugal, where multiple independent events on distinct chromosome 4 haplotypes have given rise to expansion into the pathogenic range. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. © 2015 The Authors. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2015 · American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B Neuropsychiatric Genetics
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    ABSTRACT: Huntington’s disease (HD) is a dominant neurodegenerative disorder that is due to expansion of an unstable HTT CAG repeat for which genome-wide genetic scans are now revealing chromosome regions that contain disease-modifying genes. We have explored a novel human–mouse cross-species functional prioritisation approach, by evaluating the HD modifier 6q23–24 linkage interval. This unbiased strategy employs C57BL/6J (B6J) HdhQ111 knock-in mice, replicates of the HD mutation, and the C57BL/6J-chr10A/J/NaJ chromosome substitution strain (CSS10), in which only chromosome 10 (chr10), in synteny with the human 6q23–24 region, is derived from the A/J (AJ) strain. Crosses were performed to assess the possibility of dominantly acting chr10 AJ-B6J variants of strong effect that may modulate CAG-dependent HdhQ111/+ phenotypes. Testing of F1 progeny confirmed that a single AJ chromosome had a significant effect on the rate of body weight gain and in HdhQ111 mice the AJ chromosome was associated subtle alterations in somatic CAG instability in the liver and the formation of intra-nuclear inclusions, as well as DARPP-32 levels, in the striatum. These findings in relatively small cohorts are suggestive of dominant chr10 AJ-B6 variants that may modify effects of the CAG expansion, and encourage a larger study with CSS10 and sub-strains. This cross-species approach may therefore be suited to functional in vivo prioritisation of genomic regions harbouring genes that can modify the early effects of the HD mutation. Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00335-014-9552-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2015 · Mammalian Genome
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    ABSTRACT: Objectives Huntington's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by motor, cognitive, and psychiatric symptoms that are caused by huntingtin gene (HTT) CAG trinucleotide repeat alleles of 36 or more units. A greater than expected prevalence of incompletely penetrant HTT CAG repeat alleles observed among individuals diagnosed with major depressive disorder raises the possibility that another mood disorder, bipolar disorder, could likewise be associated with Huntington's disease.Methods We assessed the distribution of HTT CAG repeat alleles in a cohort of individuals with bipolar disorder. HTT CAG allele sizes from 2,229 Caucasian individuals diagnosed with DSM-IV bipolar disorder were compared to allele sizes in 1,828 control individuals from multiple cohorts.ResultsWe found that HTT CAG repeat alleles > 35 units were observed in only one of 4,458 chromosomes from individuals with bipolar disorder, compared to three of 3,656 chromosomes from control subjects.Conclusions These findings do not support an association between bipolar disorder and Huntington's disease.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2015 · Bipolar Disorders
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    ABSTRACT: The CAG repeat expansion in the Huntington's disease gene HTT extends a polyglutamine tract in mutant huntingtin that enhances its ability to facilitate polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2). To gain insight into this dominant gain of function, we mapped histone modifications genome-wide across an isogenic panel of mouse embryonic stem cell (ESC) and neuronal progenitor cell (NPC) lines, comparing the effects of Htt null and different size Htt CAG mutations. We found that Htt is required in ESC for the proper deposition of histone H3K27me3 at a subset of ‘bivalent’ loci but in NPC it is needed at ‘bivalent’ loci for both the proper maintenance and the appropriate removal of this mark. In contrast, Htt CAG size, though changing histone H3K27me3, is prominently associated with altered histone H3K4me3 at ‘active’ loci. The sets of ESC and NPC genes with altered histone marks delineated by the lack of huntingtin or the presence of mutant huntingtin, though distinct, are enriched in similar pathways with apoptosis specifically highlighted for the CAG mutation. Thus, the manner by which huntingtin function facilitates PRC2 may afford mutant huntingtin with multiple opportunities to impinge upon the broader machinery that orchestrates developmentally appropriate chromatin status.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2015 · Human Molecular Genetics
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    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.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2014 · Science Signaling
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    Full-text · Dataset · Oct 2014
  • James F. Gusella · Marcy E. MacDonald · Jong‐Min Lee
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    ABSTRACT: Huntington's disease (HD) is a devastating neurodegenerative disorder that directly affects more than 1 in 10,000 persons in Western societies but, as a family disorder with a long, costly, debilitating course, it has an indirect impact on a far greater proportion of the population. Although some palliative treatments are used, no effective treatment exists for preventing clinical onset of the disorder or for delaying its inevitable progression toward premature death, approximately 15 years after diagnosis. Huntington's disease involves a movement disorder characterized by chorea, as well as a variety of psychiatric disturbances and intellectual decline, with a gradual loss of independence. A dire need exists for effective HD therapies to alleviate the suffering and costs to the individual, family, and health care system. In past decades, genetics, the study of DNA sequence variation and its consequences, provided the tools to map the HD gene to chromosome 4 and ultimately to identify its mutation as an expanded CAG trinucleotide repeat in the coding sequence of a large protein, dubbed huntingtin. Now, advances in genetic technology offer an unbiased route to the identification of genetic factors that are disease-modifying agents in human patients. Such genetic modifiers are expected to highlight processes capable of altering the course of HD and therefore to provide new, human-validated targets for traditional drug development, with the goal of developing rational treatments to delay or prevent onset of HD clinical signs. © 2014 International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society
    No preview · Article · Sep 2014 · Movement Disorders
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    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 (HDMs) and methyltransferases. Notably, dhtt strongly modifies phenotypes resulting from loss of the HDM 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.
    No preview · Article · Aug 2014 · Human Molecular Genetics
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    Morgan N. Thompson · Marcy E. MacDonald · James F. Gusella · Michael A Myre
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    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.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2014 · Journal of Huntington's disease
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    Full-text · Dataset · Jul 2014
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    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.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2014 · PLoS ONE
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    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.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2014 · PLoS Genetics
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    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.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2013 · PLoS ONE

Publication Stats

20k Citations
1,925.71 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 1987-2015
    • Harvard University
      Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
  • 1986-2015
    • Massachusetts General Hospital
      • • Center for Human Genetic Research
      • • Department of Neurology
      • • Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory
      • • Neuroepigenetics Laboratory
      Boston, Massachusetts, United States
  • 1986-2013
    • Harvard Medical School
      • • Department of Neurology
      • • Department of Genetics
      Boston, Massachusetts, United States
  • 2006
    • University of Toronto
      Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    • Albert Einstein College of Medicine
      New York, New York, United States
  • 2004
    • Brigham and Women's Hospital
      Boston, Massachusetts, United States
  • 1996
    • Howard Hughes Medical Institute
      Ashburn, Virginia, United States
  • 1992
    • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
      • Department of Biology
      Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
  • 1988-1990
    • University of Wales
      • College of Medicine
      Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom