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Decreased Striatal RGS2 Expression Is Neuroprotective in Huntington's Disease (HD) and Exemplifies a Compensatory Aspect of HD-Induced Gene Regulation

Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0022231
  • Research Article
  • Biology
  • Genetics
  • Human Genetics
  • Autosomal Dominant
  • Huntington Disease
  • Gene Expression
  • Molecular Cell Biology
  • Cellular Types
  • Neurons
  • Neuroscience
  • Molecular Neuroscience
  • Biology
  • Medicine


Background The molecular phenotype of Huntington's disease (HD) is known to comprise highly reproducible changes in gene expression involving striatal signaling genes. Here we test whether individual changes in striatal gene expression are capable of mitigating HD-related neurotoxicity. Methodology/Principal Findings We used protein-encoding and shRNA-expressing lentiviral vectors to evaluate the effects of RGS2, RASD2, STEP and NNAT downregulation in HD. Of these four genes, only RGS2 and RASD2 modified mutant htt fragment toxicity in cultured rat primary striatal neurons. In both cases, disease modulation was in the opposite of the predicted direction: whereas decreased expression of RGS2 and RASD2 was associated with the HD condition, restoring expression enhanced degeneration of striatal cells. Conversely, silencing of RGS2 or RASD2 enhanced disease-related changes in gene expression and resulted in significant neuroprotection. These results indicate that RGS2 and RASD2 downregulation comprises a compensatory response that allows neurons to better tolerate huntingtin toxicity. Assessment of the possible mechanism of RGS2-mediated neuroprotection showed that RGS2 downregulation enhanced ERK activation. These results establish a novel link between the inhibition of RGS2 and neuroprotective modulation of ERK activity. Conclusions Our findings both identify RGS2 downregulation as a novel compensatory response in HD neurons and suggest that RGS2 inhibition might be considered as an innovative target for neuroprotective drug development.

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