Brain Commun. 2024 Jan 23;6(2):fcae016. doi: 10.1093/braincomms/fcae016. eCollection 2024.


Expansions of glutamine-coding CAG trinucleotide repeats cause a number of neurodegenerative diseases, including Huntington’s disease and several of spinocerebellar ataxias. In general, age-at-onset of the polyglutamine diseases is inversely correlated with the size of the respective inherited expanded CAG repeat. Expanded CAG repeats are also somatically unstable in certain tissues, and age-at-onset of Huntington’s disease corrected for individual HTT CAG repeat length (i.e. residual age-at-onset), is modified by repeat instability-related DNA maintenance/repair genes as demonstrated by recent genome-wide association studies. Modification of one polyglutamine disease (e.g. Huntington’s disease) by the repeat length of another (e.g. ATXN3, CAG expansions in which cause spinocerebellar ataxia 3) has also been hypothesized. Consequently, we determined whether age-at-onset in Huntington’s disease is modified by the CAG repeats of other polyglutamine disease genes. We found that the CAG measured repeat sizes of other polyglutamine disease genes that were polymorphic in Huntington’s disease participants but did not influence Huntington’s disease age-at-onset. Additional analysis focusing specifically on ATXN3 in a larger sample set (n = 1388) confirmed the lack of association between Huntington’s disease residual age-at-onset and ATXN3 CAG repeat length. Additionally, neither our Huntington’s disease onset modifier genome-wide association studies single nucleotide polymorphism data nor imputed short tandem repeat data supported the involvement of other polyglutamine disease genes in modifying Huntington’s disease. By contrast, our genome-wide association studies based on imputed short tandem repeats revealed significant modification signals for other genomic regions. Together, our short tandem repeat genome-wide association studies show that modification of Huntington’s disease is associated with short tandem repeats that do not involve other polyglutamine disease-causing genes, refining the landscape of Huntington’s disease modification and highlighting the importance of rigorous data analysis, especially in genetic studies testing candidate modifiers.

PMID:38449714 | PMC:PMC10917446 | DOI:10.1093/braincomms/fcae016