Hypothesis: Huntingtin may function in membrane association and vesicular trafficking.
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Huntington's disease is a progressive neurodegenerative genetic disorder that is caused by a CAG triplet-repeat expansion in the first exon of the IT15 gene. This CAG expansion results in polyglutamine expansion in the 350 kDa huntingtin protein. The exact function of huntingtin is unknown. Understanding the pathological triggers of mutant huntingtin, and distinguishing the cause of disease from downstream effects, is critical to designing therapeutic strategies and defining long- and short-term goals of therapy. Many studies that have sought to determine the functions of huntingtin by determining huntingtin's protein-protein interactions have been published. Through these studies, huntingtin has been seen to interact with a large number of proteins, and is likely a scaffolding protein for protein-protein interactions. Recently, using imaging, integrative proteomics, and cell biology, huntingtin has been defined as a membrane-associated protein, with activities related to axonal trafficking of vesicles and mitochondria. These functions have also been attributed to some huntingtin-interacting proteins. Additionally, discoveries of a membrane association domain and a palmitoylation site in huntingtin reinforce the fact that huntingtin is membrane associated. In Huntington's disease mouse and fly models, axonal vesicle trafficking is inhibited, and lack of proper uptake of neurotrophic factors may be an important pathological trigger leading to striatal cell death in Huntington's disease. Here we discuss recent advances from many independent groups and methodologies that are starting to resolve the elusive function of huntingtin in vesicle transport, and evidence that suggests that huntingtin may be directly involved in membrane interactions.
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