Meso scale discovery-based assays for the detection of aggregated huntingtin

Wolfgang Reindl, Barbara Baldo, Jana Schulz, Isabell Janack, Ilka Lindner, Markus Kleinschmidt, Yalda Sedaghat, Christina Thiede, Karsten Tillack, Christina Schmidt, Isabell Cardaun, Tom Schwagarus, Frank Herrmann, Madlen Hotze, Georgina F. Osborne, Simone Herrmann, Andreas Weiss, Celina Zerbinatti, Gillian P. Bates, Jonathan BardIgnacio Munoz-Sanjuan, Douglas Macdonald

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27 Scopus citations


Huntington’s disease (HD) is a monogenic neurodegenerative disorder caused by an expansion of the CAG trinucleotide repeat domain in the huntingtin (HTT) gene, leading to an expanded poly-glutamine (polyQ) stretch in the HTT protein. This mutant HTT (mHTT) protein is highly prone to intracellular aggregation, causing significant damage and cellular loss in the striatal, cortical, and other regions of the brain. Therefore, modulation of mHTT levels in these brain regions in order to reduce intracellular mHTT and aggregate levels represents a direct approach in the development of HD therapeutics. To this end, assays that can be used to detect changes in HTT levels in biological samples are invaluable tools to assess target engagement and guide dose selection in clinical trials. The Meso Scale Discovery (MSD) ELISA-based assay platform is a robust and sensitive method previously employed for the quantification of HTT. However, the currently available MSD assays for HTT are primarily detecting the monomeric soluble form of the protein, but not aggregated species. In this study, we describe the development of novel MSD assays preferentially detecting mHTT in an aggregated form. Recombinant monomeric HTT(1–97)-Q46, which forms aggregates in a time-dependent manner, was used to characterize the ability of each established assay to distinguish between HTT monomers and HTT in a higher assembly state. Further validation of these assays was performed using brain lysates from R6/2, zQ175 knock-in, and BACHD mouse models, to replicate a previously well-characterized age-dependent increase in brain aggregate signals, as well as a significant reduction of aggregate levels in the striatum following mHTT knockdown with a CAG-directed allele-specific zinc-finger repressor protein (ZFP). Lastly, size exclusion chromatography was used to separate and characterize HTT species from brain tissue lysates to demonstrate specificity of the assays for the fractions containing aggregated HTT. In summary, we demonstrate that the newly developed assays preferentially detect aggregated HTT with improved performance in comparison to previous assay technologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0213521
JournalPloS one
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes

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