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Congenic expression of poly-GA but not poly-PR in mice triggers selective neuron loss and interferon responses found in C9orf72 ALS.

Acta Neuropathol. 2020;10.1007/s00401-020-02176-0. doi:10.1007/s00401-020-02176-0 [published online ahead of print, 2020 Jun 19].

Authors/Editors: LaClair KD, Zhou Q, Michaelsen M, Wefers B, Brill MS, Janjic A, Rathkolb B, Farny D, Cygan M, de Angelis MH, Wurst W, Neumann M, Enard W, Misgeld T, Arzberger T, Edbauer D.
Publication Date: 2020



Expansion of a (G4C2)n repeat in C9orf72 causes amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), but the link of the five repeat-encoded dipeptide repeat (DPR) proteins to neuroinflammation, TDP-43 pathology, and neurodegeneration is unclear. Poly-PR is most toxic in vitro, but poly-GA is far more abundant in patients. To directly compare these in vivo, we created congenic poly-GA and poly-PR mice. 40% of poly-PR mice were affected with ataxia and seizures, requiring euthanasia by 6 weeks of age. The remaining poly-PR mice were asymptomatic at 14 months of age, likely due to an 80% reduction of the transgene mRNA in this subgroup. In contrast, all poly-GA mice showed selective neuron loss, inflammation, as well as muscle denervation and wasting requiring euthanasia before 7 weeks of age. In-depth analysis of peripheral organs and blood samples suggests that peripheral organ failure does not drive these phenotypes. Although transgene mRNA levels were similar between poly-GA and affected poly-PR mice, poly-GA aggregated far more abundantly than poly-PR in the CNS and was also found in skeletal muscle. In addition, TDP-43 and other disease-linked RNA-binding proteins co-aggregated in rare nuclear inclusions in the hippocampus and frontal cortex only in poly-GA mice. Transcriptome analysis revealed activation of an interferon-responsive pro-inflammatory microglial signature in end-stage poly-GA but not poly-PR mice. This signature was also found in all ALS patients and enriched in C9orf72 cases. In summary, our rigorous comparison of poly-GA and poly-PR toxicity in vivo indicates that poly-GA, but not poly-PR at the same mRNA expression level, promotes interferon responses in C9orf72 disease and contributes to TDP-43 abnormalities and neuron loss selectively in disease-relevant regions.

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