Therapeutic effects of cystamine in a murine model of Huntington's disease
The precise cause of neuronal death in Huntington's disease (HD) is unknown. Proteolytic products of the huntingtin protein can contribute to toxic cellular aggregates that may be formed in part by tissue transglutaminase (Tgase). Tgase activity is increased in HD brain. Treatment in R6/2 transgenic HD mice, using the transglutaminase inhibitor cystamine, significantly extended survival, improved body weight and motor performance, and delayed the neuropathological sequela. Tgase activity and N(Sigma)-(gamma-L-glutamyl)-L-lysine (GGEL) levels were significantly altered in HD mice. Free GGEL, a specific biochemical marker of Tgase activity, was markedly elevated in the neocortex and caudate nucleus in HD patients. Both Tgase and GGEL immunoreactivities colocalized to huntingtin aggregates. Cystamine treatment normalized transglutaminase and GGEL levels in R6/2 mice. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that transglutaminase activity may play a role in the pathogenesis of HD, and they identify cystamine as a potential therapeutic strategy for treating HD patients.