Protein aggregation is associated with neurodegeneration. Polyglutamine expansion diseases such as spinobulbar muscular atrophy and Huntington disease feature proteins that are destabilized by an expanded polyglutamine tract in their N-termini. It has previously been reported that intracellular aggregation of these target proteins, the androgen receptor (AR) and huntingtin (Htt), is modulated by actin-regulatory pathways. Sequences that flank the polyglutamine tract of AR and Htt might influence protein aggregation and toxicity through protein-protein interactions, but this has not been studied in detail. Here we have evaluated an N-terminal 127 amino acid fragment of AR and Htt exon 1. The first 50 amino acids of ARN127 and the first 14 amino acids of Htt exon 1 mediate binding to filamentous actin in vitro. Deletion of these actin-binding regions renders the polyglutamine-expanded forms of ARN127 and Htt exon 1 less aggregation-prone, and increases the SDS-solubility of aggregates that do form. These regions thus appear to alter the aggregation frequency and type of polyglutamine-induced aggregation. These findings highlight the importance of flanking sequences in determining the propensity of unstable proteins to misfold.
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