Huntington's disease gene: Regional and cellular expression in brain of normal and affected individuals

Academic Article


  • Huntington's disease (HD) is an autosomal dominant disorder characterized by involuntary movements, dementia, and progressive, global, but regionally accentuated, brain atrophy. The disease affects the striatum most severely. An expansion of a trinucleotide repeat on chromosome 4p16.3 within the coding region of a gene termed IT15 has been identified as the mutation causing HD. The normal function of IT15 and the mechanisms by which the presence of the mutation cause HD are unknown. Although IT15 expression has been detected in the brain, as well as in other organ tissues, by Northern blot and in situ hybridization, it is not known whether a preferential regional or cellular expression of IT15 exists within the central nervous system of normal, affected, and presymptomatic individuals. Using quantitative in situ hybridization methods, we examined extensively the regional and cellular expression of IT15. In controls, IT15 expression was observed in all brain regions examined with the highest levels seen in cerebellum, hippocampus, cerebral cortex, substantia nigra pars compacta, and pontine nuclei. Expression in the striatum was intermediate and expression in the globus pallidus was low. IT15 was expressed predominantly in neurons; a low but significant level of expression was seen in glial cells. Analysis of grain counts per square micrometer in neurons showed that the regional differences in the level of mRNA expression were related to density and size of neurons in a given region and not primarily to differences in levels of mRNA expression in individual cells after correction for cell size. Neurons susceptible to degeneration in HD did not selectively express high levels of IT15 mRNA. In HD brains (grades 2–4), the distribution and levels of IT15 mRNA were comparable with controls in all areas except in neostriatum where the intensity of labeling was significantly reduced. Presymptomatic HD brains had a striatal expression similar to controls and surviving striatal neurons in more advanced HD had an expression of IT15 within normal limits. It is apparent from these results that the presence of expanded trinucleotide repeats in HD does not result in the absence of IT15 mRNA expression or in altered patterns or levels of expression. The lack of correlation between the levels of IT15 mRNA expression and susceptibility to degeneration in HD strongly suggests that the mutant gene acts in concert with other factors to cause the distinctive pattern of neurodegeneration in HD. Copyright © 1995 American Neurological Association
  • Authors

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 18797812
  • Author List

  • Landwehrmeyer GB; McNeil SM; Dure LS; Ge P; Aizawa H; Huang Q; Ambrose CM; Duyao MP; Bird ED; Bonilla E
  • Start Page

  • 218
  • End Page

  • 230
  • Volume

  • 37
  • Issue

  • 2