Binding, internalization and fate of Huntingtin Exon1 fibrillar assemblies in mitotic and nonmitotic neuroblastoma cells

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The aggregation of Huntingtin (HTT) protein and of its moiety encoded by its Exon1 (HTTExon1) into fibrillar structures inside neurons is the molecular hallmark of Huntington's disease. Prion-like transmission of these aggregates between cells has been demonstrated. The cell-to-cell transmission mechanisms of these protein aggregates and the susceptibility of different kinds of neuronal cells to these toxic assemblies still need assessment.


Here, we documented the binding to and internalization by differentiated and undifferentiated neuroblastoma cells of exogenous fibrillar HTTExon1 and polyglutamine (polyQ) polypeptides containing the same number of glutamines. We assessed the contribution of endocytosis to fibrillar HTTExon1 uptake, their intracellular localization and fate.


We observed that undifferentiated neuroblastoma cells were more susceptible to fibrillar HTTExon1 and polyQ than their differentiated counterparts. Furthermore, we demonstrated that exogenous HTTExon1 aggregates are mainly taken up by endocytosis and directed to lysosomal compartments in both mitotic and quiescent cells.


These data suggest that the rates of endocytic processes that differ in mitotic and quiescent cells strongly impact the uptake of exogenous HTTExon1 and polyQ fibrils. This may be either the consequence of distinct metabolisms or distributions of specific protein partners for amyloid-like assemblies at the surface of highly dividing versus quiescent cells. Our results highlight the importance of endocytic processes in the internalization of exogenous HTTExon1 fibrils and suggest that a proportion of those assemblies reach the cytosol where they can amplify by recruiting the endogenous protein after escaping, by yet an unknown process, from the endo-lysosomal compartments.

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