Polyglutamine-expanded ataxin-7 inhibits STAGA histone acetyltransferase activity to produce retinal degeneration

Vikas B. Palhan, Shiming Chen, Guang Hua Peng, Agneta Tjernberg, Armin M. Gamper, Yuxin Fan, Brian T. Chait, Albert R. La Spada, Robert G. Roeder

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203 Scopus citations


Spinocerebellar ataxia type 7 (SCA7) is characterized by cone-rod dystrophy retinal degeneration and is caused by a polyglutamine [poly(Q)] expansion within ataxin-7, a protein of previously unknown function. Here, we report that ataxin-7 is an integral component of the mammalian STAGA (SPT3-TAF9-ADA-GCN5 acetyltransferase) transcription coactivator complex, interacts directly with the GCN5 histone acetyltransferase component of STAGA, and mediates a direct interaction of STAGA with the CRX (cone-rod homeobox) transactivator of photoreceptor genes. Consistent with these results, chromatin immunoprecipitation assays document retinal-specific association of CRX, GCN5, and acetylated histone H3 with CRX target genes. RNA interference studies also implicate ataxin-7 and GCN5 in CRX-dependent gene activation, and histone deacetylase inhibitors restore the compromised expression of a CRX target gene in an ataxin-7-deficient background. Significantly, in relation to SCA7, poly(Q)-expanded ataxin-7 gets incorporated into STAGA and, in a dominant-negative manner, inhibits the nucleosomal histone acetylation function of STAGA GCN5 both in vitro and, based on chromatin immunoprecipitation assays, in SCA7 transgenic mice. These results suggest that the normal function of a poly(Q) disease protein may intersect with its pathogenic mechanism, an observation with significant implications for the molecular basis of all poly(Q) disorders and ultimately for their treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8472-8477
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number24
StatePublished - Jun 14 2005


  • CRX
  • Poly(Q)
  • SCA7
  • Transcription neurodegeneration


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