Huntington disease (HD) is a devastating and fatal neurodegenerative disease. At the moment, no disease modifying therapies are available, with only symptomatic treatment offered to alleviate psychiatric and some types of motor deficits. As a result, many people will continue to suffer and die from this disease. Small molecule therapies have failed to provide benefit in HD, necessitating more complex gene therapy approaches and the identification of less traditional therapeutic targets. A previous study demonstrated that preventing cleavage of the huntingtin (HTT) protein, the protein that when mutated causes HD, by caspase 6 (C6) at amino acid 586 prevents the onset of disease in transgenic HD model mice. This suggests that inhibiting the toxicity initiated by N586 cleavage could be a promising therapeutic strategy, but a safe and specific way to do this in humans has not been identified. General C6 inhibition is not a feasible strategy due to the vital functions it plays throughout life. Thus, the purpose of this study was to investigate whether the C6 cleavage fragment of HTT, N586, is itself a toxic species of HTT or if it initiates a toxic proteolytic pathway in order to identify more viable therapeutic strategies for HD. To accomplish this, we are using novel and highly sensitive immunoprecipitation and flow cytometry (IP-FCM) protein detection assays, specific for the N586 neoepitope of HTT, to evaluate the in vivo persistence of N586 in HD model mice. If N586 is detected, it is likely that it is itself toxic and promoting its degradation may be beneficial. Conversely, if it is not detected, N586 cleavage likely initiates a toxic degradation pathway and promoting its stability may be beneficial.

The results of these studies have the potential to define new therapeutic strategies for HD that can be addressed more specifically than generalized C6 inhibition for the prevention of N586-mediated toxicity. The selective targeting of N586 toxicity, either to promote or prevent its degradation depending on our results, would ensure that therapeutic activity is restricted to HTT and reduce the potential for deleterious off-target effects

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Southwell, Amber


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


College of Medicine


Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences


College of Medicine



Access Status

Open Access

Release Date