Inhibition of GSK-3 ameliorates the pathogenesis of Huntington's disease

Ido Rippin, Katherina Bonder, Shirley Joseph, Ammar Sarsor, Lilach Vaks, Hagit Eldar-Finkelman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


In Huntington's disease (HD), the mutant huntingtin (mHtt) accumulates as toxic aggregates in the striatum tissue, with deleterious effects on motor-coordination and cognitive functions. Reducing the levels of mHtt is therefore a promising therapeutic strategy. We have previously reported that GSK-3 is a negative regulator of the autophagy/lysosome pathway, which is responsible for intracellular degradation, and is critically important for maintaining neuronal vitality. Thus, we hypothesized that inhibition of GSK-3 may trigger mHtt clearance thereby reducing mHtt cytotoxicity and improving HD symptoms. Here, we demonstrate that depletion or suppression of autophagy results in a massive accumulation of mHtt aggregates. Accordingly, mHtt aggregates were localized in lysosomes, but, mostly mislocalized from lysosomes in the absence of functional autophagy. Overexpression of GSK-3, particularly the α isozyme, increased the number of mHtt aggregates, while silencing GSK-3α/β, or treatment with a selective GSK-3 inhibitor, L807mts, previously described by us, reduced the amounts of mHtt aggregates. This effect was mediated by increased autophagic and lysosomal activity. Treating R6/2 mouse model of HD with L807mts, reduced striatal mHtt aggregates and elevated autophagic and lysosomal markers. The L807mts treatment also reduced hyperglycemia and improved motor-coordination functions in these mice. In addition, L807mts restored the expression levels of Sirt1, a critical neuroprotective factor in the HD striatum, along with its targets BDNF, DRPP-32, and active Akt, all provide neurotrophic/pro-survival support and typically decline in the HD brain. Our results provide strong evidence for a role for GSK-3 in the regulation of mHtt dynamics, and demonstrate the benefits of GSK-3 inhibition in reducing mHtt toxicity, providing neuroprotective support, and improving HD symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105336
JournalNeurobiology of Disease
StatePublished - Jul 2021


FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation1843/17
Tel Aviv University


    • Autophagy
    • GSK-3
    • GSK-3 inhibitor
    • Huntington's diseases
    • L807mts
    • Lysosome
    • Mutant huntingtin
    • R6/2 mice
    • Sirt1


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