Seefelder M, Klein FAC, Landwehrmeyer B, Fernández-Busnadiego R, Kochanek S
Journal of Huntington’s Disease
J Huntingtons Dis. 2022 Jul 16.
Since the discovery of the mutation causing Huntington’s disease (HD) in 1993, it has been debated whether an expanded polyglutamine (polyQ) stretch affects the properties of the huntingtin (HTT) protein and thus contributes to the pathological mechanisms responsible for HD. Here we review the current knowledge about the structure of HTT, alone (apo-HTT) or in a complex with Huntingtin-Associated Protein 40 (HAP40), the influence of polyQ-length variation on apo-HTT and the HTT-HAP40 complex, and the biology of HAP40. Phylogenetic analyses suggest that HAP40 performs essential functions. Highlighting the relevance of its interaction with HTT, HAP40 is one of the most abundant partners copurifying with HTT and is rapidly degraded, when HTT levels are reduced. As the levels of both proteins decrease during disease progression, HAP40 could also be a biomarker for HD. Whether declining HAP40 levels contribute to disease etiology is an open question. Structural studies have shown that the conformation of apo-HTT is less constrained but resembles that adopted in the HTT-HAP40 complex, which is exceptionally stable because of extensive interactions between HAP40 and the three domains of HTT. The complex- and to some extent apo-HTT- resists fragmentation after limited proteolysis. Unresolved regions of apo-HTT, constituting about 25% of the protein, are the main sites of post-translational modifications and likely have major regulatory functions. PolyQ elongation does not substantially alter the structure of HTT, alone or when associated with HAP40. Particularly, polyQ above the disease length threshold does not induce drastic conformational changes in full-length HTT. Therefore, models of HD pathogenesis stating that polyQ expansion drastically alters HTT properties should be reconsidered.