Aberrant cytoplasmic intron retention is a blueprint for RNA binding protein mislocalization in VCP-related amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

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We recently described aberrantly increased cytoplasmic SFPQ intron-retaining transcripts (IRTs) and concurrent SFPQ protein mislocalization as new hallmarks of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). However the generalizability and potential roles of cytoplasmic IRTs in health and disease remain unclear. Here, using time-resolved deep-sequencing of nuclear and cytoplasmic fractions of hiPSCs undergoing motor neurogenesis, we reveal that ALS-causing VCP gene mutations lead to compartment-specific aberrant accumulation of IRTs. Specifically, we identify >100 IRTs with increased cytoplasmic abundance in ALS samples. Furthermore, these aberrant cytoplasmic IRTs possess sequence-specific attributes and differential predicted binding affinity to RNA binding proteins (RBPs). Remarkably, TDP-43, SFPQ and FUS—RBPs known for nuclear-to-cytoplasmic mislocalization in ALS—abundantly and specifically bind to this aberrant cytoplasmic pool of IRTs, as opposed to any individual IRT. Our data are therefore consistent with a novel role for cytoplasmic IRTs in regulating compartment-specific protein abundance. This study provides new molecular insight into potential pathomechanisms underlying ALS and highlights aberrant cytoplasmic IRTs as potential therapeutic targets.

Journal details

Journal Brain
Volume 144
Issue number 7
Pages 1985-1993
Available online
Publication date