Spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 (SCA1) is one of nine inherited neurodegenerative diseases caused by the expansion of a CAG trinucleotide repeat encoding a polyglutamine tract. SCA1 patients lose motor coordination and develop slurred speech, spasticity, and cognitive impairments. Difficulty with coordinating swallowing and breathing eventually causes death. Genetic evidence indicates that the disease mutation induces a toxic gain of function in the SCA1 encoded protein ATXN1. The discovery that residues in ATXN1 outside of the polyglutamine tract are crucial for pathogenesis hinted that alterations in the normal function of this protein are linked to its toxicity. Biochemical and genetic studies provide evidence that the polyglutamine expansion enhances interactions that are normally regulated by phosphorylation at Ser776 and a subsequent alteration in its interaction with other cellular proteins. Moreover, the finding that other ATXN1 interactions are decreased in disease suggests that the polyglutamine expansion contributes to disease by both a gain-of-function mechanism and partial loss of function.