Mechanisms for neuronal cell death and dysfunction in Huntington's disease: Pathological cross-talk between the nucleus and the mitochondria?

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Huntington's disease (HD) is a hereditary neurodegenerative condition caused by a characteristic mutation in the huntingtin (htt) gene. This gene was identified in 1993. Both the mitochondria and the nucleus play an important role in HD pathology. However, the precise molecular mechanisms remain unclear. A key strategy for understanding HD pathology is to identify signaling cascades initiated by mutant Htt that lead to neuronal cell death and dysfunction. Apoptotic stress induces greater mitochondrial depolarization in HD lymphoblasts than in control subjects. This leads to overactivation of caspase-3, which is capable of cleaving htt. Truncated forms of Htt, which are similar to the caspase-cleaved products in size, exist in the nucleus of HD patient and animal model brains. We hypothesize that caspases, which are activated by mitochondrial depolarization, play a role in producing truncated forms of Htt, which accumulate in the nucleus. Truncated forms of mutant Htt that accumulate in the nucleus are toxic to cells. There is growing evidence that truncated forms of mutant Htt in the nucleus influence gene transcription by binding to proteins such as CREB binding protein (CBP) response element binding protein binding protein, N-COR, glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase, and p53. p53 regulates the transcription of various mitochondrial proteins which may underlie the mitochondrial abnormalities, especially the vulnerability to mitochondrial depolarization, seen in HD tissues. Taken together, we hypothesize a noxious signaling cascade between the mitochondria and the nucleus, initiated by mutant Htt, which may underlie HD pathology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-381
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Molecular Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2001


  • Caspase
  • Huntingtin
  • Huntington's disease
  • Mitochondria
  • Nucleus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Drug Discovery
  • Genetics(clinical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Mechanisms for neuronal cell death and dysfunction in Huntington's disease: Pathological cross-talk between the nucleus and the mitochondria?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this