Date of Award

Spring 5-18-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Applied Biopsychology



Major Professor

Gerald LaHoste

Second Advisor

Kevin Greve

Third Advisor

Michelle Martel

Fourth Advisor

Rodney Denis Soignier

Fifth Advisor

Laura Harrison


Huntington's disease (HD) is a neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by choreiform movement of the limbs, cognitive disability, psychosis and dementia. It is untreatable, incurable, and ultimately fatal. HD is invariably associated with an abnormally long CAG expansion within the IT15 gene on human chromosome 4. Although the mutant huntingtin protein (mHtt) is ubiquitously expressed in HD patients, cellular degeneration occurs only in neurons within the striatum and cerebral cortex. The Ras homolog Rhes is expressed very selectively in the precise brain areas affected by HD. Recent work using cultured cells suggests that Rhes may be a co-factor with mHtt in cell death. However, there is controversy as to whether cell death underlies the symptoms of HD. We used a validated transgenic mouse model of HD crossed with Rhes knockout mice to show that the behavioral symptoms of HD are regulated by Rhes. HD/Rhes-/- mice showed greatly delayed expression of HD-like symptoms in this in vivo model. Drugs that block or inhibit the actions of Rhes may be useful as the first treatments for HD.


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