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Intrabodies as Therapeutics for Huntington’s Disease


Southwell, Amber L. (2009) Intrabodies as Therapeutics for Huntington’s Disease. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/DDSD-7K09.


Huntington’s disease (HD) is a devastating, genetic, neurodegenerative disease for which there is currently no effective therapy. The polyglutamine (polyQ) expansion that causes HD is in the first exon (HDx1) of huntingtin (Htt). However, other parts of the protein, including the 17 N-terminal amino acids (AAs) and two proline (polyP) repeat domains, modulate the toxicity of mutant Htt (mHtt). The role of the P-rich domain that is flanked by the polyP domains has not been explored. Using highly specific intracellular antibodies (intrabodies; iAbs), we tested various epitopes for their roles in mHDx1 toxicity, aggregation, localization and turnover. Three domains in the P-rich region (PRR) of HDx1 are defined by iAbs: MW7 binds the two polyP domains, and Happs 1 and 3, two new iAbs, bind the unique, P-rich epitope located between the two polyP epitopes. In cultured cells, we find that the three PRR-binding iAbs, as well as VL12.3, which binds an epitope in the N-terminal 17 AA segment, decrease the toxicity and aggregation of mHDx-1, but they do so by different mechanisms. The PRR-binding iAbs have no effect on Htt localization, but they cause a significant increase in the turnover rate of mHtt, which VL12.3 does not change. In contrast, expression of VL12.3 increases nuclear Htt. These results suggest that the PRR domain regulates mHtt stability and toxicity. Thus, compromising this pathogenic epitope by iAb binding represents a novel therapeutic strategy for treating HD.

We have tested this hypothesis by delivering both VL12.3 and Happ1 to the brains of HD model mice using an AAV2/1 viral vector with a modified CBA promoter. VL12.3 treatment, while beneficial in a lentiviral model of HD, has no effect on the YAC128 HD model and actually increases severity of phenotype and mortality in the R6/2 HD model. In contrast, Happ1 treatment confers significant beneficial effects in assays of motor and cognitive deficits as well as in the neuropathology found in the lentiviral, R6/2, N171-82Q, YAC128 and BACH models of HD. These results indicate that increasing the turnover of mHtt using AAV-Happ1 gene therapy represents a highly specific and effective treatment possibility for HD.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Gene therapy; Huntingtin; Huntington's disease; Immunotherapy; Intrabody; neurodegeneration
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Major Option:Neurobiology
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Patterson, Paul H.
Thesis Committee:
  • Schuman, Erin Margaret (chair)
  • Khoshnan, Ali
  • Anderson, David J.
  • Lester, Henry A.
  • Patterson, Paul H.
Defense Date:13 March 2009
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-06082009-164212
Persistent URL:
Southwell, Amber L.0000-0002-6353-5008
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:2522
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:18 Jun 2009
Last Modified:01 Sep 2022 23:49

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