High-Throughput Multiplexed Quantitation of Protein Aggregation and Cytotoxicity in a Huntington’s Disease Model

Steven A Titus, Noel Southall, Juan Marugan, Christopher P Austin , Wei Zheng*
National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health. 9800 Medical Center Drive, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA

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© Titus et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences/NIH, 9800 Medical Center Drive, MSC: 3370, Bethesda, MD 20892-3370, USA; Tel: (301)827-6727; Fax: (301)217-5728; E-mail:


A hallmark of Huntington’s disease is the presence of a large polyglutamine expansion in the first exon of the Huntingtin protein and the propensity of protein aggregation by the mutant proteins. Aberrant protein aggregation also occurs in other polyglutamine expansion disorders, as well as in other neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and prion diseases. However, the pathophysiological role of these aggregates in the cell death that characterizes the diseases remains unclear. Identification of small molecule probes that modulate protein aggregation and cytotoxicity caused by aggregated proteins may greatly facilitate the studies on pathogenesis of these diseases and potentially lead to development of new therapies. Based on a detergent insoluble property of the Huntingtin protein aggregates, we have developed a homogenous assay to rapidly quantitate the levels of protein aggregates in a cellular model of Huntington’s disease. The protein aggregation assay has also been multiplexed with a protease release assay for the measurement of cytotoxicity resulting from aggregated proteins in the same cells. Through a testing screen of a compound library, we have demonstrated that this multiplexed cytotoxicity and protein aggregation assay has ability to identify active compounds that prevent cell death and/or modulate protein aggregation in cells of the Huntington’s disease model. Therefore, this multiplexed screening approach is also useful for development of high-throughput screening assays for other neurodegenerative diseases involving protein aggregation.

Keywords: Huntington’s disease, protein aggregation, high-throughput screen, polyglutamine expansion, multiplex assay.