Intrabodies binding the proline-rich domains of mutant huntingtin increase its turnover and reduce neurotoxicity

J Neurosci. 2008 Sep 3;28(36):9013-20. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2747-08.2008.


Although expanded polyglutamine (polyQ) repeats are inherently toxic, causing at least nine neurodegenerative diseases, the protein context determines which neurons are affected. The polyQ expansion that causes Huntington's disease (HD) is in the first exon (HDx-1) of huntingtin (Htt). However, other parts of the protein, including the 17 N-terminal amino acids and two proline (polyP) repeat domains, regulate the toxicity of mutant Htt. The role of the P-rich domain that is flanked by the polyP domains has not been explored. Using highly specific intracellular antibodies (intrabodies), we tested various epitopes for their roles in HDx-1 toxicity, aggregation, localization, and turnover. Three domains in the P-rich region (PRR) of HDx-1 are defined by intrabodies: MW7 binds the two polyP domains, and Happ1 and Happ3, two new intrabodies, bind the unique, P-rich epitope located between the two polyP epitopes. We find that the PRR-binding intrabodies, as well as V(L)12.3, which binds the N-terminal 17 aa, decrease the toxicity and aggregation of HDx-1, but they do so by different mechanisms. The PRR-binding intrabodies have no effect on Htt localization, but they cause a significant increase in the turnover rate of mutant Htt, which V(L)12.3 does not change. In contrast, expression of V(L)12.3 increases nuclear Htt. We propose that the PRR of mutant Htt regulates its stability, and that compromising this pathogenic epitope by intrabody binding represents a novel therapeutic strategy for treating HD. We also note that intrabody binding represents a powerful tool for determining the function of protein epitopes in living cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies / metabolism
  • Antibodies / pharmacology
  • Antibodies / therapeutic use*
  • Antibody Specificity / physiology
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Transformed
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Epitope Mapping
  • Humans
  • Huntingtin Protein
  • Immunoglobulin Variable Region / genetics
  • Immunoglobulin Variable Region / metabolism*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Mutation / physiology*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / drug therapy*
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism*
  • Penicillamine / analogs & derivatives
  • Penicillamine / metabolism
  • Peptides
  • Proline / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding / drug effects
  • Protein Binding / genetics
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Transfection / methods


  • Antibodies
  • HTT protein, human
  • Huntingtin Protein
  • Immunoglobulin Variable Region
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Peptides
  • S-nitro-N-acetylpenicillamine
  • polyglutamine
  • Proline
  • Penicillamine