Huntington’s disease (HD) is a genetic neurodegenerative disease due to an exceedingly high number of contiguous glutamine residues in the translated protein, huntingtin. The primary site of cell toxicity is the nucleus, but mitochondria have been identified as key components of cell damage. The present work has been carried out in immortalized lymphocytes from patients with HD. These cells, in comparison with lymphoid cells from healthy subjects,
displayed: i) a redistribution of mitochondria forming large aggregates, ii) a constitutive hyperpolarization of mitochondrial membrane, and iii) a constitutive alteration of mitochondrial fission machinery, with high apoptotic susceptibility. Moreover, mitochondrial fission molecules, e.g. Drp1, as well as huntingtin, associated with mitochondrial raft-like microdomains, glycosphingolipid-enriched structures detectable in mitochondria. These findings, together with the observation that a ceramide synthase inhibitor and a raft disruptor are capable of impairing the peculiar mitochondria remodeling in HD cells, suggest that mitochondrial alterations occurring in these cells could be due to raft-mediated defects of mitochondrial fission/fusion machinery.