BACKGROUND: Cell nuclear architecture has been explored in cancer and laminopathies but not in neurodegenerative disorders. Huntington's disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that leads to neuronal death. Chromosome-wide changes in gene expression have been reported in HD, not only in the brain but also in peripheral blood cells, but whether this translates into nuclear and chromosome architecture alterations has not yet been studied.
METHODS: We investigate nuclear structure and chromosome organization in HD blood cells using fluorescence in situ hybridization in ultrathin cryosections (cryoFISH), coupled with machine learning image analysis to evaluate size, distribution, and morphology of nuclei and chromosomes. Four chromosomes were analyzed based on up- or downregulation of gene expression in HD.
RESULTS: We show that blood cells from HD patients display increased nuclear size and filamentary shape, increased size of gene-rich chromosome 19, decreased filamentary shape of gene-rich chromosome 22, and a more radially centralized position for chromosome 19, whereas chromosomes 4 and 5 do not show detectable differences.
CONCLUSIONS: We identify gross changes in nuclear architecture and chromosome organization associated with HD in blood. This adds a new layer of information onto disrupting mechanisms in HD and increases the potential of using blood to survey HD.