Spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 is caused by the expansion of the coding CAG repeat in the ATXN3 gene. Interestingly, a -1 bp frameshift occurring within an (exp)CAG repeat would henceforth lead to translation from a GCA frame, generating polyalanine stretches instead of polyglutamine. Our results show that transgenic expression of (exp)CAG ATXN3 led to -1 frameshifting events, which have deleterious effects in Drosophila and mammalian neurons. Conversely, transgenic expression of polyglutamine-encoding (exp)CAA ATXN3 was not toxic. Furthermore, (exp)CAG ATXN3 mRNA does not contribute per se to the toxicity observed in our models. Our observations indicate that expanded polyglutamine tracts in Drosophila and mouse neurons are insufficient for the development of a phenotype. Hence, we propose that -1 ribosomal frameshifting contributes to the toxicity associated with (exp)CAG repeats.