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Putting Huntingtin “Aggregation” in View with Windows into the Cellular Milieu

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Huntington's disease arises from CAG codon-repeat expansions in the Htt gene, which leads to a Htt gene product with an expanded polyglutamine (polyQ) sequence. The length of the polyQ expansion correlates with an increased tendency to form aggregates and clustering into micrometer-plus sized inclusion bodies in neurons and other cell types. Yet after nearly 20 years since the genetic basis for HD was identified, our knowledge of how polyQ-expanded Htt fragment aggregation relates to disease mechanisms remains fragmentary and controversial. Challenges remain in defining the aggregation process at the molecular level and how this process is influenced by, or influences cellular activities. Insight is further confounded by the term “aggregation” being used to describe a composite of distinct processes that may have opposing consequences to cell health and survival. This review discusses these issues in light of a historic summary of Htt aggregation in the cellular milieu and the intrinsic attributes of polyQ-expanded Htt that lead to aggregation. Finally, discussion centers on strategies forward to improve our knowledge for how aggregation relates to cellular dysfunction.
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Keywords: Huntington's disease (HD); aggregation; huntingtin; misfolding; polyglutamine (polyQ)

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2012

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