Huntington's Disease Blood and Brain Show a Common Gene Expression Pattern and Share an Immune Signature With Alzheimer's Disease

Sci Rep. 2017 Mar 21;7:44849. doi: 10.1038/srep44849.


There is widespread transcriptional dysregulation in Huntington's disease (HD) brain, but analysis is inevitably limited by advanced disease and postmortem changes. However, mutant HTT is ubiquitously expressed and acts systemically, meaning blood, which is readily available and contains cells that are dysfunctional in HD, could act as a surrogate for brain tissue. We conducted an RNA-Seq transcriptomic analysis using whole blood from two HD cohorts, and performed gene set enrichment analysis using public databases and weighted correlation network analysis modules from HD and control brain datasets. We identified dysregulated gene sets in blood that replicated in the independent cohorts, correlated with disease severity, corresponded to the most significantly dysregulated modules in the HD caudate, the most prominently affected brain region, and significantly overlapped with the transcriptional signature of HD myeloid cells. High-throughput sequencing technologies and use of gene sets likely surmounted the limitations of previously inconsistent HD blood expression studies. Our results suggest transcription is disrupted in peripheral cells in HD through mechanisms that parallel those in brain. Immune upregulation in HD overlapped with Alzheimer's disease, suggesting a common pathogenic mechanism involving macrophage phagocytosis and microglial synaptic pruning, and raises the potential for shared therapeutic approaches.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / blood
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis
  • Alzheimer Disease / etiology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Biomarkers
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease / blood
  • Huntington Disease / diagnosis
  • Huntington Disease / etiology*
  • Huntington Disease / metabolism
  • Immunity / genetics*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myeloid Cells / immunology
  • Myeloid Cells / metabolism
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transcriptome*
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers