The mutation underlying Huntington disease (HD) is CAG expansion beyond 35 repeats within a novel gene. Recently, new insights into the role of the HD protein (huntingtin) in the pathogenesis of HD have emerged. The CAG is translated and expression of mutant huntingtin is essential for neuronal death. Huntingtin is crucial for normal development and may be regarded as a cell survival gene. Huntingtin is specifically cleaved during apoptosis by a key cysteine protease, apopain, known to play a pivotal role in apoptotic cell death. The rate of cleavage is enhanced by longer polyglutamine tracts, suggesting that inappropriate apoptosis underlies HD. Recently, three proteins have been identified and have been shown specifically to interact with huntingtin, two of these interactions being influenced by CAG length. Several different approaches to develop an animal model for HD include cDNA and YAC transgenics, as well as 'knock-in' strategies. Such a model will be critical for the understanding of the natural history of HD and for the testing of new therapeutic modalities.