Nonmammalian Models of Huntington’s Disease

  • Anjalika Chongtham
  • Brett Barbaro
  • Tomas Filip
  • Adeela Syed
  • Weijian Huang
  • Marianne R. Smith
  • J. Lawrence MarshEmail author
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 1780)


Flies, worms, yeast and more recently zebra fish have all been engineered to express expanded polyglutamine repeat versions of Huntingtin with various resulting pathologies including early death, neurodegeneration, and loss of motor function. Each of these models present particular features that make it useful in studying the mechanisms of polyglutamine pathology. However, one particular unbiased readout of mHTT pathology is functional loss of motor control. Loss of motor control is prominent in patients, but it remains unresolved whether pathogenic symptoms in patients result from overt degeneration and loss of neurons or from malfunctioning of surviving neurons as the pathogenic insult builds up. This is why a functional assay such as motor control can be uniquely powerful in revealing early as well as late neurological deficits and does not rely on assumptions such as that the level of inclusions or the degree of neuronal loss can be equated with the level of pathology. Drosophila is well suited for such assays because it contains a functioning nervous system with many parallels to the human condition. In addition, the ability to readily express mHTT transgenes in different tissues and subsets of neurons allows one the possibility of isolating a particular effect to a subset of neurons where one can correlate subcellular events in response to mHTT challenge with pathology at both the cellular and organismal levels. Here we describe methods to monitor the degree of motor function disruption in Drosophila models of HD and we include a brief summary of other nonmammalian models of HD and discussion of their unique strengths.


Huntingtin PolyQ Motor function Drosophila Nonmammalian Huntington’s disease models 



Support was provided by HD CARE, R01-NS-045283.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anjalika Chongtham
    • 1
  • Brett Barbaro
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tomas Filip
    • 1
    • 3
  • Adeela Syed
    • 1
  • Weijian Huang
    • 1
  • Marianne R. Smith
    • 1
    • 4
  • J. Lawrence Marsh
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Developmental and Cell BiologyUniversity of California, IrvineIrvineUSA
  2. 2.The Scripps Research InstituteLa JollaUSA
  3. 3.Biology Centre Czech Acad. Sci.Ceske BudejoviceCzech Republic
  4. 4.University Advancement, UC IrvineIrvineUSA

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