In polyglutamine (polyQ) diseases, large polyQ repeats cause juvenile cases with different symptoms than those of adult-onset patients, who carry smaller expanded polyQ repeats. The mechanisms behind the differential pathology mediated by different polyQ repeat lengths remain unknown.
By studying knockin mouse models of spinal cerebellar ataxia-17 (SCA17), scientists found that a large polyQ (105 glutamines) in the TATA-box-binding protein (TBP) preferentially causes muscle degeneration and reduces the expression of muscle-specific genes.
Direct expression of TBP with different polyQ repeats in mouse muscle revealed that muscle degeneration is mediated only by the large polyQ repeats.
Different polyQ repeats differentially alter TBP’s interaction with neuronal and muscle-specific transcription factors. As a result, the large polyQ repeat decreases the association of MyoD with TBP and DNA promoters.
These findings suggest that specific alterations in protein interactions by large polyQ repeats may account for the unique pathology in juvenile polyQ diseases.