High-mobility group box 1 links sensing of reactive oxygen species by huntingtin to its nuclear entry
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Huntington's disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative, age-onset disorder caused by a CAG DNA expansion in exon 1 of the HTT gene, resulting in a polyglutamine expansion in the huntingtin protein. Nuclear accumulation of mutant huntingtin is a hallmark of HD, resulting in elevated mutant huntingtin levels in cell nuclei. Huntingtin is normally retained at the endoplasmic reticulum via its N17 amphipathic α-helix domain but is released by oxidation of Met-8 during reactive oxygen species (ROS) stress. Huntingtin enters the nucleus via an importin β1- and 2-dependent proline-tyrosine nuclear localization signal (PY-NLS), which has a unique intervening sequence in huntingtin. Here, we have identified the high-mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) protein as an interactor of the intervening sequence within the PY-NLS. Nuclear levels of HMGB1 positively correlated with varying levels of nuclear huntingtin in both HD and normal human fibroblasts. We also found that HMGB1 interacts with the huntingtin N17 region and that this interaction is enhanced by the presence of ROS and phosphorylation of critical serine residues in the N17 region. We conclude that HMGB1 is a huntingtin N17/PY-NLS ROS-dependent interactor, and this protein bridging is essential for relaying ROS sensing by huntingtin to its nuclear entry during ROS stress. ROS may therefore be a critical age-onset stress that triggers nuclear accumulation of mutant huntington in Huntington's disease.
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