Mutant huntingtin fails to directly impair brain mitochondria

James Hamilton, Tatiana Brustovetsky, Nickolay Brustovetsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Although the mechanisms by which mutant huntingtin (mHtt) results in Huntington's disease (HD) remain unclear, mHtt-induced mitochondrial defects were implicated in HD pathogenesis. The effect of mHtt could be mediated by transcriptional alterations, by direct interaction with mitochondria, or by both. In the present study, we tested a hypothesis that mHtt directly damages mitochondria. To test this hypothesis, we applied brain cytosolic fraction from YAC128 mice, containing mHtt, to brain non-synaptic and synaptic mitochondria from wild-type mice and assessed mitochondrial respiration with a Clark-type oxygen electrode, membrane potential and Ca2+ uptake capacity with tetraphenylphosphonium (TPP+)- and Ca2+-sensitive electrodes, respectively, and, reactive oxygen species production with Amplex Red assay. The amount of mHtt bound to mitochondria following incubation with mHtt-containing cytosolic fraction was greater than the amount of mHtt bound to brain mitochondria isolated from YAC128 mice. Despite mHtt binding to wild-type mitochondria, no abnormalities in mitochondrial functions were detected. This is consistent with our previous results demonstrating the lack of defects in brain mitochondria isolated from R6/2 and YAC128 mice. This, however, could be because of partial loss of mitochondrially bound mHtt during the isolation procedure. Consequently, we increased the amount of mitochondrially bound mHtt by incubating brain non-synaptic and synaptic mitochondria isolated from YAC128 mice with mHtt-containing cytosolic fraction. Despite the enrichment of YAC128 brain mitochondria with mHtt, mitochondrial functions (respiration, membrane potential, reactive oxygen species production, Ca2+ uptake capacity) remained unchanged. Overall, our results suggest that mHtt does not directly impair mitochondrial functions, arguing against the involvement of this mechanism in HD pathogenesis. (Figure presented.). Open Science: This manuscript was awarded with the Open Materials Badge. For more information see:

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)716-731
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Neurochemistry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • Huntington's disease
  • calcium
  • mitochondria
  • mitochondrial membrane potential
  • reactive oxygen species
  • respiration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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