The Journal of biological chemistry

Forkhead transcription factor FOXO3a levels are increased in Huntington disease because of overactivated positive autofeedback loop.

PMID 25271153


Huntington disease (HD) is a fatal autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disorder caused by an increased number of CAG repeats in the HTT gene coding for huntingtin. Decreased neurotrophic support and increased mitochondrial and excitotoxic stress have been reported in HD striatal and cortical neurons. The members of the class O forkhead (FOXO) transcription factor family, including FOXO3a, act as sensor proteins that are activated upon decreased survival signals and/or increased cellular stress. Using immunocytochemical screening in mouse striatal Hdh(7/7) (wild type), Hdh(7/109) (heterozygous for HD mutation), and Hdh(109/109) (homozygous for HD mutation) cells, we identified FOXO3a as a differentially regulated transcription factor in HD. We report increased nuclear FOXO3a levels in mutant Hdh cells. Additionally, we show that treatment with mitochondrial toxin 3-nitropropionic acid results in enhanced nuclear localization of FOXO3a in wild type Hdh(7/7) cells and in rat primary cortical neurons. Furthermore, mRNA levels of Foxo3a are increased in mutant Hdh cells compared with wild type cells and in 3-nitropropionic acid-treated primary neurons compared with untreated neurons. A similar increase was observed in the cortex of R6/2 mice and HD patient post-mortem caudate tissue compared with controls. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation and reporter assays, we demonstrate that FOXO3a regulates its own transcription by binding to the conserved response element in Foxo3a promoter. Altogether, the findings of this study suggest that FOXO3a levels are increased in HD cells as a result of overactive positive feedback loop.