Modulation of Molecular Chaperones in Huntington’s Disease and Other Polyglutamine Disorders
Nine neurodegenerative disorders are caused by the abnormal expansion of polyglutamine (polyQ) regions within distinct proteins. Genetic and biochemical evidence has documented that the molecular chaperone, heat shock protein 70 (Hsp70), modulates polyQ toxicity and aggregation, yet it remains unclear how Hsp70 might be used as a potential therapeutic target in polyQ-related diseases. We have utilized a pair of membrane-permeable compounds that tune the activity of Hsp70 by either stimulating or by inhibiting its ATPase functions. Using these two pharmacological agents in both yeast and PC12 cell models of polyQ aggregation and toxicity, we were surprised to find that stimulating Hsp70 solubilized polyQ conformers and simultaneously exacerbated polyQ-mediated toxicity. By contrast, inhibiting Hsp70 ATPase activity protected against polyQ toxicity and promoted aggregation. These findings clarify the role of Hsp70 as a possible drug target in polyQ disorders and suggest that Hsp70 uses ATP hydrolysis to help partition polyQ proteins into structures with varying levels of proteotoxicity. Our results thus support an emerging concept in which certain kinds of polyQ aggregates may be protective, while more soluble polyQ species are toxic.