The mutation underlying Huntington disease (HD) is CAG expansion in the first exon of the HD gene. In order to investigate the role of CAG expansion in the pathogenesis of HD, we have produced transgenic mice containing the full length human HD cDNA with 44 CAG repeats. By 1 year, these mice have no behavioral abnormalities and morphometric analysis at 6 (one animal) and 9 (two animals) months age revealed no changes. Despite high levels of mRNA expression, there was no evidence of the HD gene product in any of these transgenic mice. In vitro transfection studies indicated that the inclusion of 120 bp of the 5' UTR in the cDNA construct and the presence of a frameshift mutation at nucleotide 2349 prevented expression of the HD cDNA. These findings suggest that the pathogenesis of HD is not mediated through DNA-protein interaction and that presence of the RNA transcript with an expanded CAG repeat is insufficient to cause the disease. Rather, translation of the CAG is crucial for the pathogenesis of HD. In contrast to that seen in humans, the CAG repeat in these mice was remarkably stable in 97 meioses. This suggests that genomic sequences may play a critical role in influencing repeat instability.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology