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Altered mRNP granule dynamics in FTLD pathogenesis

J Neurochem. 2016 Mar 3. doi: 10.1111/jnc.13601. [Epub ahead of print]

Authors/Editors: Bowden H, Dormann D.
Publication Date: 2016


In neurons, RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) play a key role in post-transcriptional gene regulation, e.g. alternative splicing, mRNA localization in neurites and local translation upon synaptic stimulation. There is increasing evidence that defective or mislocalized RBPs – and consequently altered mRNA processing – lead to neuronal dysfunction and cause neurodegeneration, including frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Cytosolic RBP aggregates containing TDP-43 (TAR DNA binding protein of 43 kDa) or FUS (Fused in sarcoma) are a common hallmark of both disorders. There is mounting evidence that translationally silent mRNP granules, such as stress granules or transport granules, play an important role in the formation of these RBP aggregates. These granules are thought to be "catalytic convertors" of RBP aggregation by providing a high local concentration of RBPs. As recently shown in vitro, RBPs that contain a so-called low complexity domain start to "solidify" and eventually aggregate at high protein concentrations. The same may happen in mRNP granules in vivo, leading to "solidified" granules that lose their dynamic properties and ability to fulfill their physiological functions. This may result in a disturbed stress response, altered mRNA transport and local translation, and formation of pathological TDP-43 or FUS aggregates, all of which may contribute to neuronal dysfunction and neurodegeneration. Here, we discuss the general functional properties of these mRNP granules, how their dynamics may be disrupted in FTLD/ALS, e.g. by loss or gain-of-function of TDP-43 and FUS, and how this may contribute to the development of RBP aggregates and neurotoxicity.

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