Cardiac dysfunction in the R6/2 mouse model of Huntington's disease

Michael J. Mihm, Deborah M. Amann, Brandon L. Schanbacher, Ruth A. Altschuld, John Anthony Bauer, Kari R. Hoyt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


Recent evidence suggests that mutant huntingtin protein-induced energetic perturbations contribute to neuronal dysfunction in Huntington's disease (HD). Given the ubiquitous expression of huntingtin, other cell types with high energetic burden may be at risk for HD-related dysfunction. Early-onset cardiovascular disease is the second leading cause of death in HD patients; a direct role for mutant huntingtin in this phenomenon remains unevaluated. Here we tested the hypothesis that expression of mutant huntingtin is sufficient to induce cardiac dysfunction, using a well-described transgenic model of HD (line R6/2). R6/2 mice developed cardiac dysfunction by 8 weeks of age, progressing to severe failure at 12 weeks, assessed by echocardiography. Limited evidence of cardiac remodeling (e.g. hypertrophy, fibrosis, apoptosis, β1 adrenergic receptor downregulation) was observed. Immunogold electron microscopy demonstrated significant elevations in nuclear and mitochondrial polyglutamine presence in the R6/2 myocyte. Significant alterations in mitochondrial ultrastructure were seen, consistent with metabolic stress. Increased cardiac lysine acetylation and protein nitration were observed and were each significantly associated with impairments in cardiac performance. These data demonstrate that mutant huntingtin expression has potent cardiotoxic effects; cardiac failure may be a significant complication of this important experimental model of HD. Investigation of the potential cardiotropic effects of mutant huntingtin in humans may be warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-308
Number of pages12
JournalNeurobiology of Disease
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We appreciate the expert technical assistance of Jessica Buescher, Mandar Joshi, PhD, and Kathy Wolken, MS. This work was supported in part by grants from the National Institutes of Health (HL59791, HL63067, NS41003), The Hereditary Disease Foundation, and the American Heart Association, Ohio Valley Affiliate.


  • Acetylation
  • Cardiovascular
  • Heart
  • Huntingtin
  • Huntington's disease
  • Mitochondria
  • Nitrotyrosine
  • Polyglutamine
  • Transgenic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology


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