Huntington Disease Gene Expression Signatures in Blood Compared to Brain of YAC128 Mice as Candidates for Monitoring of Pathology

Mol Neurobiol. 2022 Apr;59(4):2532-2551. doi: 10.1007/s12035-021-02680-8. Epub 2022 Jan 29.


While the genetic cause of Huntington disease (HD) is known since 1993, still no cure exists. Therapeutic development would benefit from a method to monitor disease progression and treatment efficacy, ideally using blood biomarkers. Previously, HD-specific signatures were identified in human blood representing signatures in human brain, showing biomarker potential. Since drug candidates are generally first screened in rodent models, we aimed to identify HD signatures in blood and brain of YAC128 HD mice and compare these with previously identified human signatures. RNA sequencing was performed on blood withdrawn at two time points and four brain regions from YAC128 and control mice. Weighted gene co-expression network analysis was used to identify clusters of co-expressed genes (modules) associated with the HD genotype. These HD-associated modules were annotated via text-mining to determine the biological processes they represented. Subsequently, the processes from mouse blood were compared with mouse brain, showing substantial overlap, including protein modification, cell cycle, RNA splicing, nuclear transport, and vesicle-mediated transport. Moreover, the disease-associated processes shared between mouse blood and brain were highly comparable to those previously identified in human blood and brain. In addition, we identified HD blood-specific pathology, confirming previous findings for peripheral pathology in blood. Finally, we identified hub genes for HD-associated blood modules and proposed a strategy for gene selection for development of a disease progression monitoring panel.

Keywords: Biomarker; Gene expression; Huntington disease; Network analysis; YAC128 mice.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Phenomena*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Corpus Striatum / pathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disease Progression
  • Huntingtin Protein / metabolism
  • Huntington Disease* / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Transcriptome / genetics


  • Huntingtin Protein