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A two-step path to inclusion formation of huntingtin peptides revealed by number and brightness analysis.

  • Author(s): Ossato, Giulia
  • Digman, Michelle A
  • Aiken, Charity
  • Lukacsovich, Tamas
  • Marsh, J Lawrence
  • Gratton, Enrico
  • et al.
Abstract

Protein aggregation is a hallmark of several neurodegenerative diseases including Huntington's disease. We describe the use of the recently developed number and brightness method (N&B) that uses confocal images to monitor aggregation of Huntingtin exon 1 protein (Httex1p) directly in living cells. N&B measures the molecular brightness of protein aggregates in the entire cell noninvasively based on intensity fluctuations at each pixel in an image. N&B applied to mutant Httex1p in living cells showed a two-step pathway leading to inclusion formation that is polyQ length dependent and involves four phases. An initial phase of monomer accumulation is followed by formation of small oligomers (5-15 proteins); as protein concentration increases, an inclusion is seeded and forms in the cytoplasm; the growing inclusion recruits most of the Httex1p and depletes the cell leaving only a low concentration of monomers. The behavior of Httex1p in COS-7 and ST14A cells is compared.

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