Many neurodegenerative disorders are caused by abnormal accumulation of misfolded proteins. In spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 (SCA1), accumulation of polyglutamine-expanded (polyQ-expanded) ataxin-1 (ATXN1) causes neuronal toxicity. Lowering total ATXN1, especially the polyQ-expanded form, alleviates disease phenotypes in mice, but the molecular mechanism by which the mutant ATXN1 is specifically modulated is not understood. Here, we identified 22 mutant ATXN1 regulators by performing a cross-species screen of 7787 and 2144 genes in human cells and Drosophila eyes, respectively. Among them, transglutaminase 5 (TG5) preferentially regulated mutant ATXN1 over the WT protein. TG enzymes catalyzed cross-linking of ATXN1 in a polyQ-length–dependent manner, thereby preferentially modulating mutant ATXN1 stability and oligomerization. Perturbing Tg in Drosophila SCA1 models modulated mutant ATXN1 toxicity. Moreover, TG5 was enriched in the nuclei of SCA1-affected neurons and colocalized with nuclear ATXN1 inclusions in brain tissue from patients with SCA1. Our work provides a molecular insight into SCA1 pathogenesis and an opportunity for allele-specific targeting for neurodegenerative disorders.


Won-Seok Lee, Ismael Al-Ramahi, Hyun-Hwan Jeong, Youjin Jang, Tao Lin, Carolyn J. Adamski, Laura A. Lavery, Smruti Rath, Ronald Richman, Vitaliy V. Bondar, Elizabeth Alcala, Jean-Pierre Revelli, Harry T. Orr, Zhandong Liu, Juan Botas, Huda Y. Zoghbi


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