Aberrant splicing of HTT generates the pathogenic exon 1 protein in Huntington disease

Kirupa Sathasivam, Andreas Neueder, Theresa A Gipson, Christian Landles, Agnesska C Benjamin, Marie K Bondulich, Donna L Smith, Richard L M Faull, Raymund A C Roos, David Howland, Peter J Detloff, David E Housman, Gillian P Bates

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

372 Citations (Scopus)


Huntington disease (HD) is a devastating, late-onset, inherited neurodegenerative disorder that manifests with personality changes, movement disorders, and cognitive decline. It is caused by a CAG repeat expansion in exon 1 of the HTT gene that translates to a polyglutamine tract in the huntingtin protein (HTT). The formation of HTT fragments has been implicated as an essential step in the molecular pathogenesis of HD and several proteases that cleave HTT have been identified. However, the importance of smaller N-terminal fragments has been highlighted by their presence in HD postmortem brains and by the fact that nuclear inclusions are only detected by antibodies to the N terminus of HTT. Despite an intense research effort, the precise length of these fragments and the mechanism by which they are generated remains unknown. Here we show that CAG repeat length-dependent aberrant splicing of exon 1 HTT results in a short polyadenylated mRNA that is translated into an exon 1 HTT protein. Given that mutant exon 1 HTT proteins have consistently been shown to be highly pathogenic in HD mouse models, the aberrant splicing of HTT mRNA provides a mechanistic basis for the molecular pathogenesis of HD. RNA-targeted therapeutic strategies designed to lower the levels of HTT are under development. Many of these approaches would not prevent the production of exon 1 HTT and should be reviewed in light of our findings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2366-2370
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2013


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