The human α1A voltage-dependent calcium channel (Cav2.1) is a pore-forming essential subunit embedded in the plasma membrane. Its cytoplasmic carboxyl(C)-tail contains a small poly-glutamine (Q) tract, whose length is normally 4~19 Q, but when expanded up to 20~33Q, the tract causes an autosomal-dominant neurodegenerative disorder, spinocerebellar ataxia type 6 (SCA6). A recent study has shown that a 75-kDa C-terminal fragment (CTF) containing the polyQ tract remains soluble in normal brains, but becomes insoluble mainly in the cytoplasm with additional localization to the nuclei of human SCA6 Purkinje cells. However, the mechanism by which the CTF aggregation leads to neurodegeneration is completely elusive, particularly whether the CTF exerts more toxicity in the nucleus or in the cytoplasm. We tagged recombinant (r)CTF with either nuclear-localization or nuclear-export signal, created doxycyclin-inducible rat pheochromocytoma (PC12) cell lines, and found that the CTF is more toxic in the cytoplasm than in the nucleus, the observations being more obvious with Q28 (disease range) than with Q13 (normal-length). Surprisingly, the CTF aggregates co-localized both with cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB) and phosphorylated-CREB (p-CREB) in the cytoplasm, and Western blot analysis showed that the quantity of CREB and p-CREB were both decreased in the nucleus when the rCTF formed aggregates in the cytoplasm. In human brains, polyQ aggregates also co-localized with CREB in the cytoplasm of SCA6 Purkinje cells, but not in other conditions. Collectively, the cytoplasmic Cav2.1-CTF aggregates are sufficient to cause cell death, and one of the pathogenic mechanisms may be abnormal CREB trafficking in the cytoplasm and reduced CREB and p-CREB levels in the nuclei.
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