Altered glutamatergic and dopaminergic signaling has been proposed as contributing to the specific striatal cell death observed in Huntington's disease (HD). However, the precise mechanisms by which mutant huntingtin sensitize striatal cells to dopamine and glutamate inputs remain unclear. Here, we demonstrate in knock-in HD striatal cells that mutant huntingtin enhances dopamine-mediated striatal cell death via dopamine D1 receptors. Moreover, we show that NMDA receptors specifically potentiate the vulnerability of mutant huntingtin striatal cells to dopamine toxicity as pretreatment with NMDA increased D1R-induced cell death in mutant but not wild-type cells. As potential underlying mechanism of increased striatal vulnerability, we identified aberrant cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (Cdk5) activation. We demonstrate that enhanced Cdk5 phosphorylation and increased calpain-mediated conversion of the Cdk5 activator p35 into p25 may account for the deregulation of Cdk5 associated to dopamine and glutamate receptor activation in knock-in HD striatal cells. Moreover, supporting a detrimental role of Cdk5 in striatal cell death, neuronal loss can be widely prevented by roscovitine, a potent Cdk5 inhibitor. Significantly, reduced Cdk5 expression together with enhanced Cdk5 phosphorylation and p25 accumulation also occurs in the striatum of mutant HdhQ111 mice and HD human brain suggesting the relevance of deregulated Cdk5 pathway in HD pathology. These findings provide new insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying the selective vulnerability of striatal cells in HD and identify p25/Cdk5 as an important mediator of dopamine and glutamate neurotoxicity associated to HD. Copyright © 2008 Society for Neuroscience.
- Dopamine D receptors 1