Spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 (SCA1) is a dominantly inherited disorder characterized by progressive loss of coordination, motor impairment and the degeneration of cerebellar Purkinje cells, spinocerebellar tracts and brainstem nuclei. Many dominantly inherited neurodegenerative diseases share the mutational basis of SGA1: the expansion of a translated CAG repeat coding for glutamine. Mice lacking ataxin-I display learning deficits and altered hippocampal synaptic plasticity but none of the abnormalities seen in human SCA1; mice expressing ataxin-1 with an expanded CAG tract (82 glutamine residues), however, develop Purkinje cell pathology and ataxia. These results suggest that mutant ataxin-1 gains a novel function that leads to neuronal degeneration. This novel function might involve aberrant interaction(s) with cell-specific protein(s), which in turn might explain the selective neuronal pathology. Mutant ataxin-1 interacts preferentially with a leucine-rich acidic nuclear protein that is abundantly expressed in cerebellar Purkinje cells and other brain regions affected in SCA1. Immunolocalization studies in affected neurons of patients and SCA1 transgenic mice showed that mutant ataxin-1 localizes to a single, ubiquitin-positive nuclear inclusion (NI) that alters the distribution of the proteasome and certain chaperones. Further analysis of NIs in transfected HeLa cells established that the proteasome and chaperone proteins co-localize with ataxin-1 aggregates. Moreover, overexpression of the chaperone HDJ-2/HSDJ in HeLa cells decreased ataxin-1 aggregation, suggesting that protein misfolding might underlie NI formation. To assess the importance of the nuclear localization of ataxin-1 and its role in SCA1 pathogenesis, two lines of transgenic mice were generated. In the first line, the nuclear localization signal was mutated so that full-length mutant ataxin-1 would remain in the cytoplasm; mice from this line did not develop any ataxia or pathology. This suggests that mutant ataxin-1 is pathogenic only in the nucleus. To assess the role of the aggregates, transgenic mice were generated with mutant ataxin-1 without the self-association domain (SAD) essential for aggregate formation. These mice developed ataxia and Purkinje cell abnormalities similar to those seen in SCA1 transgenic mice carrying full-length mutant ataxin-1, but lacked NIs. The nuclear milieu is thus a critical factor in SCA1 pathogenesis, but large NIs are not needed to initiate pathogenesis. They might instead be downstream of the primary pathogenic steps. Given the accumulated evidence, we propose the following model for SCA1 pathogenesis: expansion of the polyglutamine tract alters the conformation of ataxin-1, causing it to misfold. This in turn leads to aberrant protein interactions. Cell specificity is determined by the cell-specific proteins interacting with ataxin-1. Submicroscopic protein aggregation might occur because of protein misfolding, and those aggregates become detectable as NIs as the disease advances. Proteasome redistribution to the NI might contribute to disease progression by disturbing proteolysis and subsequent vital cellular functions.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||3|
|Journal||Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences|
|State||Published - Jun 29 1999|
- Spinocerebellar ataxia type 1