Huntington disease is a devastating neurodegenerative disease caused by the expansion of a polymorphic glutamine tract in huntingtin. The huntingtin interacting protein (HIP-1) was identified by its altered interaction with mutant huntingtin. However, the function of HIP-1 was not known. In this study, we identify HIP-1 as a proapoptotic protein. Overexpression of HIP-1 resulted in rapid caspase 3-dependent cell death. Bioinformatics analyses identified a novel domain in HIP-1 with homology to death effector domains (DEDs) present in proteins involved in apoptosis. Expression of the HIP-1 DED alone resulted in cell death indistinguishable from HIP-1, indicating that the DED is responsible for HIP-1 toxicity. Furthermore, substitution of a conserved hydrophobic phenylalanine residue within the HIP-1 DED at position 398 eliminated HIP-1 toxicity entirely. HIP-1 activity was found to be independent of the DED-containing caspase 8 but was significantly inhibited by the antiapoptotic protein Bcl-xL, implicating the intrinsic pathway of apoptosis in HIP-1-induced cell death. Coexpression of a normal huntingtin fragment capable of binding HIP-1 significantly reduced cell death. Our data identify HIP-1 as a novel proapoptotic mediator and suggest that HIP-1 may be a molecular accomplice in the pathogenesis of Huntington disease.
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