Genetic Modification of Huntington Disease Acts Early in the Prediagnosis Phase

Jeffrey D. Long, Jong Min Lee, Elizabeth H. Aylward, Tammy Gillis, Jayalakshmi Srinidhi Mysore, Kawther Abu Elneel, Michael J. Chao, Jane S. Paulsen, Marcy E. MacDonald, James F. Gusella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Age at onset of Huntington disease, an inherited neurodegenerative disorder, is influenced by the size of the disease-causing CAG trinucleotide repeat expansion in HTT and by genetic modifier loci on chromosomes 8 and 15. Stratifying by modifier genotype, we have examined putamen volume, total motor score (TMS), and symbol digit modalities test (SDMT) scores, both at study entry and longitudinally, in normal controls and CAG-expansion carriers who were enrolled prior to the emergence of manifest HD in the PREDICT-HD study. The modifiers, which included onset-hastening and onset-delaying alleles on chromosome 15 and an onset-hastening allele on chromosome 8, revealed no major effect in controls but distinct patterns of modification in prediagnosis HD subjects. Putamen volume at study entry showed evidence of reciprocal modification by the chromosome 15 alleles, but the rate of loss of putamen volume was modified only by the deleterious chromosome 15 allele. By contrast, both alleles modified the rate of change of the SDMT score, but neither had an effect on the TMS. The influence of the chromosome 8 modifier was evident only in the rate of TMS increase. The data indicate that (1) modification of pathogenesis can occur early in the prediagnosis phase, (2) the modifier loci act in genetic interaction with the HD mutation rather than through independent additive effects, and (3) HD subclinical phenotypes are differentially influenced by each modifier, implying distinct effects in different cells or tissues. Together, these findings indicate the potential benefit of using genetic modifier strategies for dissecting the prediagnosis pathogenic process in HD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)349-357
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican journal of human genetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 6 2018


  • CAG expansion
  • FAN1
  • HTT
  • Huntington disease
  • RRM2B
  • age at onset
  • genetic modifier
  • symbol digits modalities test
  • total motor score
  • trinucleotide repeat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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