Small molecule modulator of protein disulfide isomerase attenuates mutant huntingtin toxicity and inhibits endoplasmic reticulum stress in a mouse model of Huntington's disease

Hum Mol Genet. 2018 May 1;27(9):1545-1555. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddy061.


Huntington's disease (HD) is caused by a cytosine-adenine-guanine (CAG) trinucleotide repeat expansion in the huntingtin (HTT) gene encoding an elongated polyglutamine tract within the N-terminal of the huntingtin protein (Htt) and leads to Htt misfolding, aberrant protein aggregation, and progressive appearance of disease symptoms. Chronic activation of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress by mutant Htt (mHtt) results in cellular dysfunction and ultimately cell death. Protein disulfide isomerase (PDI) is a chaperone protein located in the ER. Our previous studies demonstrated that mHtt caused PDI to accumulate at mitochondria-associated ER membranes and triggered cell death, and that modulating PDI activity using small molecules protected cells again mHtt toxicity in cell and brain slice models of HD. In this study, we demonstrated that PDI is upregulated in the HD human brain, in cell and mouse models. Chronic administration of a reversible, brain penetrable small molecule PDI modulator, LOC14 (20 mg/kg/day), significantly improved motor function, attenuated brain atrophy and extended survival in the N171-82Q HD mice. Moreover, LOC14 preserved medium spiny neuronal marker dopamine- and cyclic-AMP-regulated phosphoprotein of molecular weight 32 000 (DARPP32) levels in the striatum of HD mice. Mechanistic study revealed that LOC14 suppressed mHtt-induced ER stress, indicated by repressing the abnormally upregulated ER stress proteins in HD models. These findings suggest that LOC14 is promising to be further optimized for clinical trials of HD, and modulation of signaling pathways coping with ER stress may constitute an attractive approach to reduce mHtt toxicity and identify new therapeutic targets for treatment of HD.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Atrophy / drug therapy
  • Atrophy / genetics
  • Atrophy / metabolism
  • Blotting, Western
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress / genetics
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress / physiology
  • Female
  • Huntingtin Protein / metabolism*
  • Huntington Disease / drug therapy*
  • Huntington Disease / genetics
  • Huntington Disease / metabolism*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Protein Disulfide-Isomerases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Protein Disulfide-Isomerases / genetics
  • Protein Disulfide-Isomerases / metabolism*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • Huntingtin Protein
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Pdia3 protein, mouse
  • Protein Disulfide-Isomerases