Huntington's disease (HD) is caused by a CAG repeat expansion in the huntingtin (HTT) gene. Recent evidence suggests that HD is a consequence of multimodal, non-mutually exclusive mechanisms of pathogenesis that involve both HTT protein- and HTT RNA-triggered mechanisms. Here we provide further evidence for the role of expanded HTT (expHTT) RNA in HD by demonstrating that a fragment of expHTT is cytotoxic in the absence of any translation and that the extent of cytotoxicity is similar to the cytotoxicity of an expHTT protein fragment encoded by a transcript of similar length and with a similar repeat size. In addition, full-length (FL) expHTT is retained in the nucleus. Overexpression of the splicing factor muscleblind-like 1 (MBNL1) increases nuclear retention of expHTT and decreases the expression of expHTT protein in the cytosol. The splicing and nuclear export factor U2AF65 has the opposite effect, decreasing expHTT nuclear retention and increasing expression of expHTT protein. This suggests that MBNL1 and U2AF65 play a role in nuclear export of expHTT RNA.
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