Polyglutamine-expanded human huntingtin transgenes induce degeneration of Drosophila photoreceptor neurons

Neuron. 1998 Sep;21(3):633-42. doi: 10.1016/s0896-6273(00)80573-5.


Huntington's disease (HD) is an autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disorder. Disease alleles contain a trinucleotide repeat expansion of variable length, which encodes polyglutamine tracts near the amino terminus of the HD protein, huntingtin. Polyglutamine-expanded huntingtin, but not normal huntingtin, forms nuclear inclusions. We describe a Drosophila model for HD. Amino-terminal fragments of human huntingtin containing tracts of 2, 75, and 120 glutamine residues were expressed in photoreceptor neurons in the compound eye. As in human neurons, polyglutamine-expanded huntingtin induced neuronal degeneration. The age of onset and severity of neuronal degeneration correlated with repeat length, and nuclear localization of huntingtin presaged neuronal degeneration. In contrast to other cell death paradigms in Drosophila, coexpression of the viral antiapoptotic protein, P35, did not rescue the cell death phenotype induced by polyglutamine-expanded huntingtin.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Apoptosis
  • Drosophila
  • Humans
  • Huntingtin Protein
  • Huntington Disease / genetics
  • Nerve Degeneration
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / physiology*
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Nuclear Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics*
  • Nuclear Proteins / physiology*
  • Peptide Fragments / biosynthesis
  • Peptide Fragments / genetics
  • Peptide Fragments / metabolism
  • Peptides*
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Invertebrate / physiology*
  • Recombinant Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Recombinant Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism


  • HTT protein, human
  • Huntingtin Protein
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Peptides
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • polyglutamine