Background: Huntington's disease (HD) is an inherited neurodegenerative disorder triggered by an expanded polyglutamine tract in huntingtin that is thought to confer a new conformational property on this large protein. The propensity of small amino-terminal fragments with mutant, but not wild-type, glutamine tracts to self-aggregate is consistent with an altered conformation but such fragments occur relatively late in the disease process in human patients and mouse models expressing full-length mutant protein. This suggests that the altered conformational property may act within the full-length mutant huntingtin to initially trigger pathogenesis. Indeed, genotype-phenotype studies in HD have defined genetic criteria for the disease initiating mechanism, and these are all fulfilled by phenotypes associated with expression of full-length mutant huntingtin, but not amino-terminal fragment, in mouse models. As the in vitro aggregation of amino-terminal mutant huntingtin fragment offers a ready assay to identify small compounds that interfere with the conformation of the polyglutamine tract, we have identified a number of aggregation inhibitors, and tested whether these are also capable of reversing a phenotype caused by endogenous expression of mutant huntingtin in a striatal cell line from the HdhQ111/Q111 knock-in mouse. Results: We screened the NINDS Custom Collection of 1,040 FDA approved drugs and bioactive compounds for their ability to prevent in vitro aggregation of Q58-htn 1-171 amino terminal fragment. Ten compounds were identified that inhibited aggregation with IC50 < 15 μM, including gossypol, gambogic acid, juglone, celastrol, sanguinarine and anthralin. Of these, both juglone and celastrol were effective in reversing the abnormal cellular localization of full-length mutant huntingtin observed in mutant HdhQ111/Q111 striatal cells. Conclusions: At least some compounds identified as aggregation inhibitors also prevent a neuronal cellular phenotype caused by full-length mutant huntingtin, suggesting that in vitro fragment aggregation can act as a proxy for monitoring the disease-producing conformational property in HD. Thus, identification and testing of compounds that alter in vitro aggregation is a viable approach for defining potential therapeutic compounds that may act on the deleterious conformational property of full-length mutant huntingtin. © 2005 Wang et al., licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
Wang, J., Gines, S., MacDonald, M. E., & Gusella, J. F. (2005). Reversal of a full-length mutant huntingtin neuronal cell phenotype by chemical inhibitors of polyglutamine-mediated aggregation. BMC Neuroscience, 6. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2202-6-1