Research ArticleHuntington’s Disease

Targeting ATM ameliorates mutant Huntingtin toxicity in cell and animal models of Huntington’s disease

Science Translational Medicine  24 Dec 2014:
Vol. 6, Issue 268, pp. 268ra178
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3010523

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Abstract

Age-related neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease (HD) consistently show elevated DNA damage, but the relevant molecular pathways in disease pathogenesis remain unclear. One attractive gene is that encoding the ataxia-telangiectasia mutated (ATM) protein, a kinase involved in the DNA damage response, apoptosis, and cellular homeostasis. Loss-of-function mutations in both alleles of ATM cause ataxia-telangiectasia in children, but heterozygous mutation carriers are disease-free. Persistently elevated ATM signaling has been demonstrated in Alzheimer’s disease and in mouse models of other neurodegenerative diseases. We show that ATM signaling was consistently elevated in cells derived from HD mice and in brain tissue from HD mice and patients. ATM knockdown protected from toxicities induced by mutant Huntingtin (mHTT) fragments in mammalian cells and in transgenic Drosophila models. By crossing the murine Atm heterozygous null allele onto BACHD mice expressing full-length human mHTT, we show that genetic reduction of Atm gene dosage by one copy ameliorated multiple behavioral deficits and partially improved neuropathology. Small-molecule ATM inhibitors reduced mHTT-induced death of rat striatal neurons and induced pluripotent stem cells derived from HD patients. Our study provides converging genetic and pharmacological evidence that reduction of ATM signaling could ameliorate mHTT toxicity in cellular and animal models of HD, suggesting that ATM may be a useful therapeutic target for HD.

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