Cryo-electron tomography provides topological insights into mutant huntingtin exon 1 and polyQ aggregates

Jesús G. Galaz-Montoya, Sarah H. Shahmoradian, Koning Shen, Judith Frydman, Wah Chiu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Huntington disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative trinucleotide repeat disorder caused by an expanded poly-glutamine (polyQ) tract in the mutant huntingtin (mHTT) protein. The formation and topology of filamentous mHTT inclusions in the brain (hallmarks of HD implicated in neurotoxicity) remain elusive. Using cryo-electron tomography and subtomogram averaging, here we show that mHTT exon 1 and polyQ-only aggregates in vitro are structurally heterogenous and filamentous, similar to prior observations with other methods. Yet, we find filaments in both types of aggregates under ~2 nm in width, thinner than previously reported, and regions forming large sheets. In addition, our data show a prevalent subpopulation of filaments exhibiting a lumpy slab morphology in both aggregates, supportive of the polyQ core model. This provides a basis for future cryoET studies of various aggregated mHTT and polyQ constructs to improve their structure-based modeling as well as their identification in cells without fusion tags.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number849
JournalCommunications Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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