Accumulation of mutant huntingtin fragments in aggresome-like inclusion bodies as a result of insufficient protein degradation


  • S. Waelter
  • A. Boeddrich
  • R. Lurz
  • E. Scherzinger
  • G. Lueder
  • H. Lehrach
  • E.E. Wanker


  • Molecular Biology of the Cell


  • Mol Biol Cell 12 (5): 1393-1407


  • The huntingtin exon 1 proteins with a polyglutamine repeat in the pathological range (51 or 83 glutamines), but not with a polyglutamine tract in the normal range (20 glutamines), form aggresome-like perinuclear inclusions in human 293 Tet-Off cells. These structures contain aggregated, ubiquitinated huntingtin exon 1 protein with a characteristic fibrillar morphology. Inclusion bodies with truncated huntingtin protein are formed at centrosomes and are surrounded by vimentin filaments. Inhibition of proteasome activity resulted in a twofold increase in the amount of ubiquitinated, SDS-resistant aggregates, indicating that inclusion bodies accumulate when the capacity of the ubiquitin-proteasome system to degrade aggregation-prone huntingtin protein is exhausted. Immunofluorescence and electron microscopy with immunogold labeling revealed that the 20S, 19S, and 11S subunits of the 26S proteasome, the molecular chaperones BiP/GRP78, Hsp70, and Hsp40, as well as the RNA-binding protein TIA-1, the potential chaperone 14-3-3, and alpha-synuclein colocalize with the perinuclear inclusions. In 293 Tet-Off cells, inclusion body formation also resulted in cell toxicity and dramatic ultrastructural changes such as indentations and disruption of the nuclear envelope. Concentration of mitochondria around the inclusions and cytoplasmic vacuolation were also observed. Together these findings support the hypothesis that the ATP-dependent ubiquitin-proteasome system is a potential target for therapeutic interventions in glutamine repeat disorders.