Monoclonal antibodies recognize distinct conformational epitopes formed by polyglutamine in a mutant huntingtin fragment

J Biol Chem. 2009 Aug 7;284(32):21647-58. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M109.016923. Epub 2009 Jun 2.


Huntington disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disorder caused by an expansion of a polyglutamine (polyQ) domain in the N-terminal region of huntingtin (htt). PolyQ expansion above 35-40 results in disease associated with htt aggregation into inclusion bodies. It has been hypothesized that expanded polyQ domains adopt multiple potentially toxic conformations that belong to different aggregation pathways. Here, we used atomic force microscopy to analyze the effect of a panel of anti-htt antibodies (MW1-MW5, MW7, MW8, and 3B5H10) on aggregate formation and the stability of a mutant htt-exon1 fragment. Two antibodies, MW7 (polyproline-specific) and 3B5H10 (polyQ-specific), completely inhibited fibril formation and disaggregated preformed fibrils, whereas other polyQ-specific antibodies had widely varying effects on aggregation. These results suggest that expanded polyQ domains adopt multiple conformations in solution that can be readily distinguished by monoclonal antibodies, which has important implications for understanding the structural basis for polyQ toxicity and the development of intrabody-based therapeutics for HD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / chemistry*
  • Epitopes / chemistry
  • Huntingtin Protein
  • Huntington Disease / metabolism
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force / methods
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / chemistry*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Nuclear Proteins / chemistry*
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics*
  • Peptides / chemistry*
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Rats
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Epitopes
  • Htt protein, rat
  • Huntingtin Protein
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Peptides
  • polyglutamine