Indexed on: 01 Aug '12Published on: 01 Aug '12Published in: PloS one
Abnormal insoluble ubiqitinated protein aggregates are found in the brains of Huntington's disease (HD) patients and in mice transgenic for the HTT mutation. Here, we describe the earliest stages of visible NII formation in brains of R6/2 mice killed between 2 and 6 weeks of age. We found that huntingtin-positive aggregates formed rapidly (within 24-48 hours) in a spatiotemporal manner similar to that we described previously for ubiquitinated inclusions. However, in most neurons, aggregates are not ubiquitinated when they first form. It has always been assumed that mutant huntingtin is recognised as 'foreign' and consequently ubiquitinated and targeted for degradation by the ubiquitin-proteasome system pathway. Our data, however, suggest that aggregation and ubiquitination are separate processes, and that mutant huntingtin fragment is not recognized as 'abnormal' by the ubiquitin-proteasome system before aggregation. Rather, mutant Htt appears to aggregate before it is ubiquitinated, and then either aggregated huntingtin is ubiquitinated or ubiquitinated proteins are recruited into aggregates. Our findings have significant implications for the role of the ubiquitin-proteasome system in the formation of aggregates, as they suggest that this system is not involved until after the first aggregates form.