Huntington's Disease Induced Cardiac Amyloidosis Is Reversed by Modulating Protein Folding and Oxidative Stress Pathways in the Drosophila Heart

Melkani, Girish C.; Trujillo, Adriana S.; Ramos, Raul; Bodmer, Rolf; Bernstein, Sanford I.; Ocorr, Karen
December 2013
PLoS Genetics;Dec2013, Vol. 9 Issue 12, p1
Academic Journal
Amyloid-like inclusions have been associated with Huntington's disease (HD), which is caused by expanded polyglutamine repeats in the Huntingtin protein. HD patients exhibit a high incidence of cardiovascular events, presumably as a result of accumulation of toxic amyloid-like inclusions. We have generated a Drosophila model of cardiac amyloidosis that exhibits accumulation of PolyQ aggregates and oxidative stress in myocardial cells, upon heart-specific expression of Huntingtin protein fragments (Htt-PolyQ) with disease-causing poly-glutamine repeats (PolyQ-46, PolyQ-72, and PolyQ-102). Cardiac expression of GFP-tagged Htt-PolyQs resulted in PolyQ length-dependent functional defects that included increased incidence of arrhythmias and extreme cardiac dilation, accompanied by a significant decrease in contractility. Structural and ultrastructural analysis of the myocardial cells revealed reduced myofibrillar content, myofibrillar disorganization, mitochondrial defects and the presence of PolyQ-GFP positive aggregates. Cardiac-specific expression of disease causing Poly-Q also shortens lifespan of flies dramatically. To further confirm the involvement of oxidative stress or protein unfolding and to understand the mechanism of PolyQ induced cardiomyopathy, we co-expressed expanded PolyQ-72 with the antioxidant superoxide dismutase (SOD) or the myosin chaperone UNC-45. Co-expression of SOD suppressed PolyQ-72 induced mitochondrial defects and partially suppressed aggregation as well as myofibrillar disorganization. However, co-expression of UNC-45 dramatically suppressed PolyQ-72 induced aggregation and partially suppressed myofibrillar disorganization. Moreover, co-expression of both UNC-45 and SOD more efficiently suppressed GFP-positive aggregates, myofibrillar disorganization and physiological cardiac defects induced by PolyQ-72 than did either treatment alone. Our results demonstrate that mutant-PolyQ induces aggregates, disrupts the sarcomeric organization of contractile proteins, leads to mitochondrial dysfunction and increases oxidative stress in cardiomyocytes leading to abnormal cardiac function. We conclude that modulation of both protein unfolding and oxidative stress pathways in the Drosophila heart model can ameliorate the detrimental PolyQ effects, thus providing unique insights into the genetic mechanisms underlying amyloid-induced cardiac failure in HD patients.


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