Human molecular genetics

Loss of the thyroid hormone-binding protein Crym renders striatal neurons more vulnerable to mutant huntingtin in Huntington's disease.

PMID 25398949


The mechanisms underlying preferential atrophy of the striatum in Huntington's disease (HD) are unknown. One hypothesis is that a set of gene products preferentially expressed in the striatum could determine the particular vulnerability of this brain region to mutant huntingtin (mHtt). Here, we studied the striatal protein µ-crystallin (Crym). Crym is the NADPH-dependent p38 cytosolic T3-binding protein (p38CTBP), a key regulator of thyroid hormone (TH) T3 (3,5,3'-triiodo-l-thyronine) transportation. It has been also recently identified as the enzyme that reduces the sulfur-containing cyclic ketimines, which are potential neurotransmitters. Here, we confirm the preferential expression of the Crym protein in the rodent and macaque striatum. Crym expression was found to be higher in the macaque caudate than in the putamen. Expression of Crym was reduced in the BACHD and Knock-in 140CAG mouse models of HD before onset of striatal atrophy. We show that overexpression of Crym in striatal medium-size spiny neurons using a lentiviral-based strategy in mice is neuroprotective against the neurotoxicity of an N-terminal fragment of mHtt in vivo. Thus, reduction of Crym expression in HD could render striatal neurons more susceptible to mHtt suggesting that Crym may be a key determinant of the vulnerability of the striatum. In addition our work points to Crym as a potential molecular link between striatal degeneration and the THs deregulation reported in HD patients.