Huntington’s disease (HD) is a fatal and progressive condition with severe debilitating motor defects and muscle weakness. Although classically recognized as a neurodegenerative disorder, there is increasing evidence of cell autonomous toxicity in skeletal muscle. We recently demonstrated that skeletal muscle fibers from the R6/2 model mouse of HD have a decrease in specific membrane capacitance, suggesting a loss of transverse tubule (t-tubule) membrane in R6/2 muscle. A previous report also indicated that Cav1.1 current was reduced in R6/2 skeletal muscle, suggesting defects in excitation–contraction (EC) coupling. Thus, we hypothesized that a loss and/or disruption of the skeletal muscle t-tubule system contributes to changes in EC coupling in R6/2 skeletal muscle. We used live-cell imaging with multiphoton confocal microscopy and transmission electron microscopy to assess the t-tubule architecture in late-stage R6/2 muscle and found no significant differences in the t-tubule system density, regularity, or integrity. However, electron microscopy images revealed that the cross-sectional area of t-tubules at the triad were 25% smaller in R6/2 compared with age-matched control skeletal muscle. Computer simulation revealed that the resulting decrease in the R6/2 t-tubule luminal conductance contributed to, but did not fully explain, the reduced R6/2 membrane capacitance. Analyses of bridging integrator-1 (Bin1), which plays a primary role in t-tubule formation, revealed decreased Bin1 protein levels and aberrant splicing of Bin1 mRNA in R6/2 muscle. Additionally, the distance between the t-tubule and sarcoplasmic reticulum was wider in R6/2 compared with control muscle, which was associated with a decrease in junctophilin 1 and 2 mRNA levels. Altogether, these findings can help explain dysregulated EC coupling and motor impairment in Huntington’s disease.

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