Widespread FUS mislocalization is a molecular hallmark of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

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Mutations causing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) clearly implicate ubiquitously expressed and predominantly nuclear RNA binding proteins, which form pathological cytoplasmic inclusions in this context. However, the possibility that wild-type RNA binding proteins mislocalize without necessarily becoming constituents of cytoplasmic inclusions themselves remains relatively unexplored. We hypothesized that nuclear-to-cytoplasmic mislocalization of the RNA binding protein fused in sarcoma (FUS), in an unaggregated state, may occur more widely in ALS than previously recognized. To address this hypothesis, we analysed motor neurons from a human ALS induced-pluripotent stem cell model caused by the VCP mutation. Additionally, we examined mouse transgenic models and post-mortem tissue from human sporadic ALS cases. We report nuclear-to-cytoplasmic mislocalization of FUS in both VCP-mutation related ALS and, crucially, in sporadic ALS spinal cord tissue from multiple cases. Furthermore, we provide evidence that FUS protein binds to an aberrantly retained intron within the SFPQ transcript, which is exported from the nucleus into the cytoplasm. Collectively, these data support a model for ALS pathogenesis whereby aberrant intron retention in SFPQ transcripts contributes to FUS mislocalization through their direct interaction and nuclear export. In summary, we report widespread mislocalization of the FUS protein in ALS and propose a putative underlying mechanism for this process.

Journal details

Journal Brain
Volume 142
Issue number 9
Pages 2572-2580
Available online
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