Towards an Understanding of Energy Impairment in Huntington's Disease Brain

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36 Scopus citations


This review systematically examines the evidence for shifts in flux through energy generating biochemical pathways in Huntington's disease (HD) brains from humans and model systems. Compromise of the electron transport chain (ETC) appears not to be the primary or earliest metabolic change in HD pathogenesis. Rather, compromise of glucose uptake facilitates glucose flux through glycolysis and may possibly decrease flux through the pentose phosphate pathway (PPP), limiting subsequent NADPH and GSH production needed for antioxidant protection. As a result, oxidative damage to key glycolytic and tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle enzymes further restricts energy production so that while basal needs may be met through oxidative phosphorylation, those of excessive stimulation cannot. Energy production may also be compromised by deficits in mitochondrial biogenesis, dynamics or trafficking. Restrictions on energy production may be compensated for by glutamate oxidation and/or stimulation of fatty acid oxidation. Transcriptional dysregulation generated by mutant huntingtin also contributes to energetic disruption at specific enzymatic steps. Many of the alterations in metabolic substrates and enzymes may derive from normal regulatory feedback mechanisms and appear oscillatory. Fine temporal sequencing of the shifts in metabolic flux and transcriptional and expression changes associated with mutant huntingtin expression remain largely unexplored and may be model dependent. Differences in disease progression among HD model systems at the time of experimentation and their varying states of metabolic compensation may explain conflicting reports in the literature. Progressive shifts in metabolic flux represent homeostatic compensatory mechanisms that maintain the model organism through presymptomatic and symptomatic stages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-302
Number of pages36
JournalJournal of Huntington's Disease
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017-IOS Press and the authors. All rights reserved.


  • Huntington's Disease
  • flux analysis
  • homeostasis
  • intermediate metabolism
  • mitochondrial dysfunction


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