Toward understanding the molecular pathology of Huntington's disease

Brain Pathol. 1997 Jul;7(3):979-1002. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3639.1997.tb00897.x.


Huntington's Disease (HD) is caused by expansion of a CAG trinucleotide beyond 35 repeats within the coding region of a novel gene. Recently, new insights into the relationship between CAG expansion in the HD gene and pathological mechanisms have emerged. Survival analysis of a large cohort of affected and at-risk individuals with CAG sizes between 39 and 50 repeats have yielded probability curves of developing HD symptoms and dying of HD by a certain age. Animals transgenic for the first exon of huntingtin with large CAG repeats lengths have been reported to have a complex neurological phenotype that bears interesting similarities and differences to HD. The repertoire of huntingtin-interacting proteins continues to expand with the identification of HIP1, a protein whose yeast homologues have known functions in regulating events associated with the cytoskeleton. The ability of huntingtin to interact with two of its four known protein partners appears to be influenced by CAG length. Caspase 3 (apopain), a key cysteine protease known to play a seminal role in neural apoptosis, has also been demonstrated to specifically cleave huntingtin in a CAG length-dependent manner. Many of these features are combined in a model suggesting mechanisms by which the pathogenesis of HD may be initiated. The development of appropriate in vitro and animal models for HD will allow the validity of these models to be tested.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age of Onset
  • Carbon-Oxygen Lyases*
  • DNA-(Apurinic or Apyrimidinic Site) Lyase*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease / genetics*
  • Huntington Disease / pathology
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics
  • Peptides / genetics*
  • Phenotype
  • Trinucleotide Repeats*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • HIP1 protein, human
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Peptides
  • polyglutamine
  • Carbon-Oxygen Lyases
  • APEX1 protein, human
  • DNA-(Apurinic or Apyrimidinic Site) Lyase