Researchers from the University of Southern California have taken an important first step toward protecting against Huntington disease using gene therapy.
Huntington Disease is an incurable neurological disorder characterized by uncontrolled movements, emotional instability and loss of intellectual faculties. It affects about 30,000 people in the United States, and children of parents with the disease have a 50 percent chance of inheriting it themselves.
"Our findings allow for the possibility that controlled over-expression of RCAN1-1L might in the future be a viable avenue for therapeutic intervention in Huntington disease patients," said Kelvin J. A. Davies, professor of gerontology in the USC Davis School of Gerontology and professor of biological sciences in the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
In a paper in the June 2009 issue of Journal of Biological Chemistry, now available online, Davies and his coauthors use cell culture findings to show that a form of the gene RCAN1, known as RCAN1-1L, is dramatically decreased in human brains affected by Huntington disease. RCAN1-1L was first discovered in Davies' lab.
The investigators also show that increasing levels of RCAN1-1L rescues cells from the toxic effects of Huntington disease, a result that could someday lead to new avenues of treatment, according to Davies.
"Our discovery offers real hope and may even have wide-ranging implications for a variety of other important CAG repeat-related diseases," Davies said.
While the Huntington gene, which makes the normal Huntington protein, is an essential component to healthy nerve cells, the mutant Huntington gene makes a toxic mutant Huntington protein. Mutant Huntington contains increased levels of the amino acid glutamine, which is generated by a repetition of the DNA triplet CAG.
A normal Huntington gene has a sequence of between six and 34 CAG repeats. Any strand of DNA possessing more than 40 CAG repeats indicates the carrier will develop Huntington disease, according to the researchers.
Indeed, the more repeats of CAG, the earlier the disease manifests itself and the more devastating the disease becomes. Currently available drugs do little more than help control erratic movements associated with the condition.
"It is important to keep in mind that these protective findings are in-vitro, meaning in cell cultures. Further proof of protection by RCAN1-1L will be required in-vivo, or in actual Huntington disease patients," said lead author Gennady Ermak, research associate professor at the USC Davis School of Gerontology.
Previous in-vitro research has revealed that adding the phosphate PO4, an inorganic chemical, to the mutant Huntington protein can protect against the mutant gene. This process is called phosphorylation, and can be achieved by either inhibiting an enzyme (calcineurin) or by activating an enzyme (Akt).
"Our findings point to increased phosphorylation of mutant Huntington through calcineurin inhibition as the likely mechanism by which RCAN1-1L may be protective against the mutant Huntington," Ermak said.
As Davies explained: "RCAN1-1L may actually play a role in the cause of Huntington disease."
"The gene is required to down-regulate the activity of calcineurin. We have previously linked too much RCAN1-1L expression to Alzheimer's disease," Davies said. "Thus, Alzheimer's disease and Huntington disease appear to involve opposite problems with RCAN1 expression and calcineurin activity."
In cases of Huntington disease, too little RCAN1-1L may allow calcineurin to act unopposed and remove too many phosphates from the mutant Huntington protein.
"We observed complete protection against the mutant Huntington by RCAN1-1L," Ermak said, but he reiterated the need for further research with Huntington disease patients.
The results offer a new direction for further research, Davies added.
Other aging disorders also associated with the expansion of repeated CAG code include: DRPLA (Dentratorubropallidoluysian atrophy), SBMA (Spinobulbar muscular atrophy or Kennedy disease) and SCA1 (Spinocerebellar ataxia Type 1).
Research was supported by the CHDI Foundation, Inc., and the High Q Foundation, both committed to the rapid discovery and development of drugs that delay or slow Huntington disease.
Suzanne Wu | EurekAlert!
Further reports about: > Alzheimer > CAG > DNA > DNA possessing > DNA triplet CAG > DRPLA > Dentratorubropallidoluysian atrophy > Gerontology > Huntington disease > Kennedy disease > RCAN1 > RCAN1-1L > Spinobulbar muscular atrophy > Spinocerebellar ataxia Type 1 > USC > amino acid glutamine > gene therapy > mutant Huntington protein
For a chimpanzee, one good turn deserves another
27.06.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Mathematik in den Naturwissenschaften (MPIMIS)
New method to rapidly map the 'social networks' of proteins
27.06.2017 | Salk Institute
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
27.06.2017 | Information Technology
27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy