Scalable Production in Human Cells and Biochemical Characterization of Full-Length Normal and Mutant Huntingtin
Huntingtin (Htt) is a 350 kD intracellular protein, ubiquitously expressed and mainly localized in the cytoplasm. Huntington’s disease (HD) is caused by a CAG triplet amplification in exon 1 of the corresponding gene resulting in a polyglutamine (polyQ) expansion at the N-terminus of Htt. Production of full-length Htt has been difficult in the past and so far a scalable system or process has not been established for recombinant production of Htt in human cells. The ability to produce Htt in milligram quantities would be a prerequisite for many biochemical and biophysical studies aiming in a better understanding of Htt function under physiological conditions and in case of mutation and disease. For scalable production of full-length normal (17Q) and mutant (46Q and 128Q) Htt we have established two different systems, the first based on doxycycline-inducible Htt expression in stable cell lines, the second on “gutless” adenovirus mediated gene transfer. Purified material has then been used for biochemical characterization of full-length Htt. Posttranslational modifications (PTMs) were determined and several new phosphorylation sites were identified. Nearly all PTMs in full-length Htt localized to areas outside of predicted alpha-solenoid protein regions. In all detected N-terminal peptides methionine as the first amino acid was missing and the second, alanine, was found to be acetylated. Differences in secondary structure between normal and mutant Htt, a helix-rich protein, were not observed in our study. Purified Htt tends to form dimers and higher order oligomers, thus resembling the situation observed with N-terminal fragments, although the mechanism of oligomer formation may be different.