DNA repair mechanisms in Huntington's disease

Mol Neurobiol. 2013 Jun;47(3):1093-102. doi: 10.1007/s12035-013-8409-7. Epub 2013 Jan 30.


The human genome is under continuous attack by a plethora of harmful agents. Without the development of several dedicated DNA repair pathways, the genome would have been destroyed and cell death, inevitable. However, while DNA repair enzymes generally maintain the integrity of the whole genome by properly repairing mutagenic and cytotoxic intermediates, there are cases in which the DNA repair machinery is implicated in causing disease rather than protecting against it. One case is the instability of gene-specific trinucleotides, the causative mutations of numerous disorders including Huntington's disease. The DNA repair proteins induce mutations that are different from the genome-wide mutations that arise in the absence of repair enzymes; they occur at definite loci, they occur in specific tissues during development, and they are age-dependent. These latter characteristics make pluripotent stem cells a suitable model system for triplet repeat expansion disorders. Pluripotent stem cells can be kept in culture for a prolonged period of time and can easily be differentiated into any tissue, e.g., cells along the neural lineage. Here, we review the role of DNA repair proteins in the process of triplet repeat instability in Huntington's disease and also the potential use of pluripotent stem cells to investigate neurodegenerative disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Damage
  • DNA Repair / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease / genetics*
  • Mammals / metabolism
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology
  • Trinucleotide Repeat Expansion / genetics