In Huntington's disease, expansion of a polyglutamine (polyQ) domain in the huntingtin (htt) protein leads to misfolding and aggregation. There is much interest in the molecular features that distinguish monomeric, oligomeric, and fibrillar species that populate the aggregation pathway and likely differ in cytotoxicity. The mechanism and rate of aggregation are greatly affected by the domains flanking the polyQ segment within exon 1 of htt. A "protective" C-terminal proline-rich flanking domain inhibits aggregation by inducing polyproline II structure (PPII) within an extended portion of polyQ. The N-terminal flanking segment (httNT) adopts an α-helical structure as it drives aggregation, helps stabilize oligomers and fibrils, and is seemingly integral to their supramolecular assembly. Via solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (ssNMR), we probe how, in the mature fibrils, the htt flanking domains impact the polyQ domain and in particular the localization of the β-structured amyloid core. Using residue-specific and uniformly labeled samples, we find that the amyloid core occupies most of the polyQ domain but ends just prior to the prolines. We probe the structural and dynamical features of the remarkably abrupt β-sheet to PPII transition and discuss the potential connections to certain htt-binding proteins. We also examine the httNT α-helix outside the polyQ amyloid core. Despite its presumed structural and demonstrated stabilizing roles in the fibrils, quantitative ssNMR measurements of residue-specific dynamics show that it undergoes distinct solvent-coupled motion. This dynamical feature seems reminiscent of molten-globule-like α-helix-rich features attributed to the nonfibrillar oligomeric species of various amyloidogenic proteins.
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