Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Staying ahead of Huntington's disease

Date:
December 11, 2013
Source:
Washington University in St. Louis
Summary:
Researchers have made strides in staying ahead of Huntington’s disease, a devastating, incurable disorder that results from the death of certain neurons in the brain.

Huntington's disease is a devastating, incurable disorder that results from the death of certain neurons in the brain. Its symptoms show as progressive changes in behavior and movements.

Related Articles


The neurodegenerative disease is caused by a defect in the huntingtin gene (Htt) that causes an abnormal expansion in a part of DNA, called a CAG codon or triplet that codes for the amino acid glutamine. A healthy version of the Htt gene has between 20 and 23 CAG triplets. The mutational expansion in Htt can lead to long repeats of the CAG triplet, resulting in the mutant protein having a long sequence of several glutamine residues called a polyglutamine tract. This CAG triplet expansion in unrelated genes is the root of at least nine neurodegenerative disorders, including Huntington's disease.

Rohit Pappu, PhD, professor of biomedical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, and his colleagues in the School of Engineering & Applied Science and in the School of Medicine, are working to understand how expanded polyglutamine tracts form the types of supramolecular structures that are presumed to be toxic to neurons -- a feature that polyglutamine expansions share with proteins associated with Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

In recent work, Pappu and his research team showed that the amino acid sequences on either side of the polyglutamine tract within Htt can act as natural gatekeepers because they control the fundamental ability of polyglutamine tracts to form structures that are implicated in cellular toxicity. The results were published in PNAS Early Edition Nov. 25.

"These are progressive onset disorders," Pappu says. "The longer the polyglutamine tract gets, the more severe the disease, and the symptoms worsen with age. Our results are exciting because it means that any success we have in mimicking the effects of naturally occurring gatekeepers would be a significant step forward. And mechanistic studies are important in this regard because they enable us to learn from nature's own strategies.

"Previous studies from other labs showed that the toxic effects of polyglutamine expansions are tempered by the sequence contexts of polyglutamine tracts in Htt, not just the lengths of the polyglutamine tracts," Pappu says.

He and his research team focused on understanding the effects of sequence stretches that lie on either side of the polyglutamine tract in Htt. The results show that the N-terminal stretch accelerates the formation of ordered structures that are presumed to be benign to cells, whereas the C-terminal stretch slows the overall transition into structures that are expected to create trouble for cells, suggesting that these naturally occurring sequences behave as gatekeepers.

"It appears that where polyglutamine stretches are of functional importance, nature has ensured that they are flanked by gatekeeping sequences," Pappu says.

Pappu and his team are now working to find way s to mimic the effects of the N- and C-terminal flanking sequences from Htt. His team is working closely with Marc Diamond, MD, the David Clayson Professor of Neurology at the School of Medicine, to understand how naturally occurring proteins interact with flanking sequences and see if they can coopt them to ameliorate the toxic functions in the polyglutamine expansions.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Washington University in St. Louis. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Crick SL, Ruff KM, Garai K, Frieden C, Pappu RV. Unmasking the roles of N- and C-terminal flanking sequences from exon 1 of huntingtin as modulators of polyglutamine aggregation. PNAS Early Edition, November 2013

Cite This Page:

Washington University in St. Louis. "Staying ahead of Huntington's disease." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 December 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131211133952.htm>.
Washington University in St. Louis. (2013, December 11). Staying ahead of Huntington's disease. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131211133952.htm
Washington University in St. Louis. "Staying ahead of Huntington's disease." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131211133952.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Tryptophan Isn't Making You Sleepy On Thanksgiving

Tryptophan Isn't Making You Sleepy On Thanksgiving

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) — Tryptophan, a chemical found naturally in turkey meat, gets blamed for sleepiness after Thanksgiving meals. But science points to other culprits. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) — A new study links greater authority with increased depressive symptoms among women in the workplace. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) — Millions of American suffer from seasonal depression every year. It can lead to adverse health effects, but there are ways to ease symptoms. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins