Expansion of polyglutamine (polyQ) tract may cause protein misfolding and aggregation that lead to cytotoxicity and neurodegeneration, but the underlying mechanism remains to be elucidated. We applied ataxin-3 (Atx3), a polyQ tract-containing protein, as a model to study sequestration of normal cellular proteins. We found that the aggregates formed by polyQ-expanded Atx3 sequester its interacting partners, such as P97/VCP and ubiquitin conjugates, into the protein inclusions through specific interactions both in vitro and in cells. Moreover, this specific sequestration impairs the normal cellular function of P97 in down-regulating neddylation. However, expansion of polyQ tract in Atx3 does not alter the conformation of its surrounding regions and the interaction affinities with the interacting partners, although it indeed facilitates misfolding and aggregation of the Atx3 protein. Thus, we propose a loss-of-function pathology for polyQ diseases that sequestration of the cellular essential proteins via specific interactions into inclusions by the polyQ aggregates causes dysfunction of the corresponding proteins, and consequently leads to neurodegeneration.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors would thank Dr. X. M. Zheng for biochemical techniques, and Ms. M. Wu for technical help in NMR data acquirement. This work was supported by grants from the National Basic Research Program of China (2012CB911003, 2011CB911104), and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31270773).