Small changes, big impact: posttranslational modifications and function of huntingtin in Huntington disease

Neuroscientist. 2011 Oct;17(5):475-92. doi: 10.1177/1073858410390378. Epub 2011 Feb 10.


Huntington disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disorder caused by an elongated polyglutamine tract in huntingtin (htt). htt normally undergoes different posttranslational modifications (PTMs), including phosphorylation, SUMOylation, ubiquitination, acetylation, proteolytic cleavage, and palmitoylation. In the presence of the HD mutation, some PTMs are significantly altered and can result in changes in the clinical phenotype. A rate-limiting PTM is defined as one that can result in significant effects on the phenotype in animal models. For example, the prevention of proteolysis at D586 as well as constitutive phosphorylation at S13 and S16 can obviate the expression of phenotypic features of HD. The enzymes involved in these modifications such as caspase-6, the IκB kinase (IKK) complex, and still to be characterized phosphatases therefore represent promising therapeutic targets for HD. Identifying and testing specific modulators of PTMs now constitute the next big challenges in order to further validate these targets and proceed towards the goal of a mechanism-based treatment for HD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Huntingtin Protein
  • Huntington Disease / metabolism*
  • Lipoylation
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational / physiology*
  • Sumoylation
  • Ubiquitination


  • HTT protein, human
  • Huntingtin Protein
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins