Stress-specific spatiotemporal responses of RNA-binding proteins in human stem-cell-derived motor neurons

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RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) have been shown to play a key role in the pathogenesis of a variety of neurodegenerative disorders. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is an exemplar neurodegenerative disease characterised by rapid progression and relatively selective motor neuron loss. Nuclear-to-cytoplasmic mislocalisation and accumulation of RBPs have been identified as a pathological hallmark of the disease, yet the spatiotemporal responses of RBPs to different extrinsic stressors in human neurons remain incompletely understood. Here, we used healthy induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived motor neurons to model how different types of cellular stress affect the nucleocytoplasmic localisation of key ALS-linked RBPs. We found that osmotic stress robustly induced nuclear loss of TDP-43, SPFQ, FUS, hnRNPA1 and hnRNPK, with characteristic changes in nucleocytoplasmic localisation in an RBP-dependent manner. Interestingly, we found that RBPs displayed stress-dependent characteristics, with unique responses to both heat and oxidative stress. Alongside nucleocytoplasmic protein distribution changes, we identified the formation of stress- and RBP-specific nuclear and cytoplasmic foci. Furthermore, the kinetics of nuclear relocalisation upon recovery from extrinsic stressors was also found to be both stress- and RBP-specific. Importantly, these experiments specifically highlight TDP-43 and FUS, two of the most recognised RBPs in ALS pathogenesis, as exhibiting delayed nuclear relocalisation following stress in healthy human motor neurons as compared to SFPQ, hnRNPA1 and hnRNPK. Notably, ALS-causing valosin containing protein (VCP) mutations did not disrupt the relocalisation dynamics of TDP-43 or FUS in human motor neurons following stress. An increased duration of TDP-43 and FUS within the cytoplasm after stress may render the environment more aggregation-prone, which may be poorly tolerated in the context of ALS and related neurodegenerative disorders. In summary, our study addresses stress-specific spatiotemporal responses of neurodegeneration-related RBPs in human motor neurons. The insights into the nucleocytoplasmic dynamics of RBPs provided here may be informative for future studies examining both disease mechanisms and therapeutic strategy.

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Volume 21
Issue number 21
Pages 8346
Available online
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