Ataxin-7 Can Export from the Nucleus via a Conserved Exportin-dependent Signal
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Spinocerebellar ataxia type 7 is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder caused by a CAG DNA triplet repeat expansion leading to an expanded polyglutamine tract in the ataxin-7 protein. Ataxin-7 appears to be a transcription factor and a component of the STAGA transcription coactivator complex. Here, using live cell imaging and inverted fluorescence recovery after photobleaching, we demonstrate that ataxin-7 has the ability to export from the nucleus via the CRM-1/exportin pathway and that ataxin-7 contains a classic leucine-type nuclear export signal (NES). We have precisely defined the location of this NES in ataxin-7 and found it to be fully conserved in all vertebrate species. Polyglutamine expansion was seen to reduce the nuclear export rate of mutant ataxin-7 relative to wild-type ataxin-7. Subtle point mutation of the NES in polyglutamine expanded ataxin-7 increased toxicity in primary cerebellar neurons in a polyglutamine length-dependent manner in the context of full-length ataxin-7. Our results add ataxin-7 to a growing list of polyglutamine disease proteins that are capable of nuclear shuttling, and we define an activity of ataxin-7 in the STAGA complex of trafficking between the nucleus and cytoplasm.
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