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Human molecular genetics

Wild-type huntingtin participates in protein trafficking between the Golgi and the extracellular space.


PMID 17189290

Abstract

Huntington disease (HD) is an autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disease caused by an expanded CAG trinucleotide repeat in the first exon of the HD gene, which results in a toxic polyglutamine stretch within huntingtin, the protein it encodes. Understanding the normal function of this essential protein is vital to understanding the root of the disease, yet despite more than a decade of investigation, its role in the cell remains elusive. Identifying the subcellular localization of huntingtin and understanding its effects on global gene expression are critical to this endeavor. While most reports agree that huntingtin is predominantly a cytoplasmic protein, conflicting distribution patterns have been demonstrated at the subcellular level. Here, we examine wild-type huntingtin's localization in cultured cells by expressing the full-length human protein tagged with enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) within its unspliced genomic context. In fibrosarcoma and neuroblastoma cells, huntingtin shows discrete punctate, perinuclear localization overlapping largely with the trans-Golgi and cytoplasmic clathrin-coated vesicles, implicating huntingtin in vesicle trafficking. To determine whether huntingtin is involved in trafficking a specific subset of proteins, we measured changes in global transcription levels in embryonic stem cells and neurons lacking huntingtin. Huntingtin null neurons exhibit a significant reduction in transcripts encoding proteins destined for the extracellular space, many of which are components of the extracellular matrix or involved in cellular adhesion, receptor binding and hormone activity. Together, these findings support a role for huntingtin in the intracellular trafficking of proteins required for the construction of the extracellular matrix.