Huntington’s disease (HD) is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder caused by a polyglutamine expansion in the huntingtin (HTT) protein. The expression of mutant HTT in the baker’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae recapitulates many of the cellular phenotypes observed in mammalian HD models. Mutant HTT aggregation and toxicity in yeast is influenced by the presence of the Rnq1p and Sup35p prions, as well as other glutamine/asparagine-rich aggregation-prone proteins. Here we investigated the ability of a subset of these proteins to modulate mutant HTT aggregation and to substitute for the prion form of Rnq1p. We find that overexpression of either the putative prion Ybr016wp or the Sup35p prion restores aggregation of mutant HTT in yeast cells lacking the Rnq1p prion. These results indicate that an interchangeable suite of aggregation-prone proteins regulates mutant HTT aggregation dynamics in yeast, which may have implications for mutant HTT aggregation in human cells.
The physiological role of huntingtin and the pathogenic mechanisms that produce the disease are unknown. Mutant huntingtin changes its normal localization and produces cytoplasmic and intranuclear inclusions, changes gene transcription, alters synaptic transmission, impairs mitochondrial activity and activates caspases and other pro-apoptotic molecules, promotes excitotoxicity, energy deficits, synthesis and release reduction of neurotrophic factors and oxidative stress. Previous studies confirm that the mutant huntingtin difficult neurotrophic function of astrocytes leading to neuronal dysfunction in Huntington’s disease. Our objective was to study the neuroprotective potential role of glia-conditioned medium (GCM) in an in vitro model of Huntington’s disease. We used conditionally-immortalized striatal neuronal progenitor cell lines (STHdhQ7/Q7 and STHdhQ111/Q111) expressing endogenous levels of normal and mutant huntingtin with 7 and 111 glutamines, respectively. We studied the protection of fetal and postnatal glia conditioned medium (GCM) on H2O2 (2 µM), glutamate (5 mM) and 3-nitropropionic acid (2.5 mM) related toxicity. We also compared the neuroprotective effects of GCM versus that of the growth factors bFGF, BDNF and GDNF.
Fetal GCM protects from every toxin, reducing the cell death and increasing the cell survival. Fetal GCM reduces the caspases fragmentation of the protein PARP, the expression of chaperone Hsp70 and the accumulation of ROS and polyubiquitinated proteins. In addition, in Q111 striatal cells treated with H2O2 (2 µM) for 24 hours, the intracellular GSH levels are higher in the presence of GCM. Notably, the 13-day and 2-month postnatal GCM, totally protects from H2O2 induced cell death in mutant striatal cells. GCM neuroprotective effects are more potent than those of the already identified neurotrophic factors.
We conclude that GCM protects Q111 cells from neuronal neurotoxins and the effects of GCM are more potent than those of any known neurotrophic factor. GCM may contain new and more potent, as yet unidentified, neurotrophic molecules, potentially useful in patients with Huntington’s disease.