BackgroundA series of human diseases are caused by the misfolding and aggregation of specific proteins or peptides into amyloid fibrils; nine of these diseases, referred to as polyglutamine diseases, are associated with proteins carrying an expanded polyglutamine (polyQ) region. While the presence of this latter is thought to be the determinant factor for the development of polyQ diseases, the non-polyQ regions of the host proteins are thought to play a significant modulating role.MethodIn order to better understand the role of non-polyQ regions, the toxic effects of model proteins bearing different polyQ regions (containing up to 79 residues) embedded at two distinct locations within the β-lactamase (BlaP) host enzyme were evaluated in Caenorhabditis elegans. This small organism can be advantageous for the validation of in vitro findings, as it provides a multicellular context yet avoids the typical complexity of common studies relying on vertebrate models. Several phenotypic assays were performed in order to screen for potential toxic effects of the different BlaP-polyQ proteins.ResultsDespite the significant in vitro aggregation of BlaP-polyQ proteins with long polyQ regions, none of the BlaP-polyQ chimeras aggregated in the generated transgenic in vivo models.ConclusionThe absence of a toxic effect of the expression of BlaP-polyQ chimeras may find its cause in biochemical mechanisms present in vivo to cope with protein aggregation (e.g. presence of chaperones) or in C. elegans’ limitations such as its short lifespan. It is plausible that the aggregation propensities of the different BlaP chimeras containing embedded polyQ sequences are too low in this in vivo environment to permit their aggregation. These experiments emphasize the need for several comparative and in vivo verification studies of biologically relevant in vitro findings, which reveal both the strengths and limitations of widely used model systems.