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Monomeric Huntingtin Exon 1 Has Similar Overall Structural Features for Wild-Type and Pathological Polyglutamine Lengths

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journal contribution
posted on 22.09.2017, 00:00 by John B. Warner, Kiersten M. Ruff, Piau Siong Tan, Edward A. Lemke, Rohit V. Pappu, Hilal A. Lashuel
Huntington’s disease is caused by expansion of a polyglutamine (polyQ) domain within exon 1 of the huntingtin gene (Httex1). The prevailing hypothesis is that the monomeric Httex1 protein undergoes sharp conformational changes as the polyQ length exceeds a threshold of 36–37 residues. Here, we test this hypothesis by combining novel semi-synthesis strategies with state-of-the-art single-molecule Förster resonance energy transfer measurements on biologically relevant, monomeric Httex1 proteins of five different polyQ lengths. Our results, integrated with atomistic simulations, negate the hypothesis of a sharp, polyQ length-dependent change in the structure of monomeric Httex1. Instead, they support a continuous global compaction with increasing polyQ length that derives from increased prominence of the globular polyQ domain. Importantly, we show that monomeric Httex1 adopts tadpole-like architectures for polyQ lengths below and above the pathological threshold. Our results suggest that higher order homotypic and/or heterotypic interactions within distinct sub-populations of neurons, which are inevitable at finite cellular concentrations, are likely to be the main source of sharp polyQ length dependencies of HD.