Viral expression of ALS-linked ubiquilin-2 mutants causes inclusion pathology and behavioral deficits in mice.
ABSTRACT: UBQLN2 mutations have recently been associated with familial forms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and ALS-dementia. UBQLN2 encodes for ubiquilin-2, a member of the ubiquitin-like protein family which facilitates delivery of ubiquitinated proteins to the proteasome for degradation. To study the potential role of ubiquilin-2 in ALS, we used recombinant adeno-associated viral (rAAV) vectors to express UBQLN2 and three of the identified ALS-linked mutants (P497H, P497S, and P506T) in primary neuroglial cultures and in developing neonatal mouse brains.In primary cultures rAAV2/8-mediated expression of UBQLN2 mutants resulted in inclusion bodies and insoluble aggregates. Intracerebroventricular injection of FVB mice at post-natal day 0 with rAAV2/8 expressing wild type or mutant UBQLN2 resulted in widespread, sustained expression of ubiquilin-2 in brain. In contrast to wild type, mutant UBQLN2 expression induced significant pathology with large neuronal, cytoplasmic inclusions and ubiquilin-2-positive aggregates in surrounding neuropil. Ubiquilin-2 inclusions co-localized with ubiquitin, p62/SQSTM, optineurin, and occasionally TDP-43, but were negative for ?-synuclein, neurofilament, tau, and FUS. Mutant UBLQN2 expression also resulted in Thioflavin-S-positive inclusions/aggregates. Mice expressing mutant forms of UBQLN2 variably developed a motor phenotype at 3-4 months, including nonspecific clasping and rotarod deficits.These findings demonstrate that UBQLN2 mutants (P497H, P497S, and P506T) induce proteinopathy and cause behavioral deficits, supporting a "toxic" gain-of-function, which may contribute to ALS pathology. These data establish also that our rAAV model can be used to rapidly assess the pathological consequences of various UBQLN2 mutations and provides an agile system to further interrogate the molecular mechanisms of ubiquilins in neurodegeneration.
Project description:Although the aetiology of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) remains poorly understood, impaired proteostasis is a common feature of different forms of ALS. Mutations in genes encoding ubiquilins, UBQLN2 and UBQLN4, cause familial ALS. The role of ubiquilins in proteasomal degradation is well established, but their role in autophagy-lysosomal clearance is poorly defined. Here, we describe a crosstalk between endoplasmic reticulum stress, mTOR signalling and autophagic flux in Drosophila and mammalian cells lacking ubiquilins. We found that loss of ubiquilins leads to endoplasmic reticulum stress, impairs mTORC1 activity, promotes autophagy and causes the demise of neurons. We show that ubiquilin mutants display defective autophagic flux due to reduced lysosome acidification. Ubiquilins are required to maintain proper levels of the V0a/V100 subunit of the vacuolar H+-ATPase and lysosomal pH. Feeding flies acidic nanoparticles alleviates defective autophagic flux in ubiquilin mutants. Hence, our studies reveal a conserved role for ubiquilins as regulators of autophagy by controlling vacuolar H+-ATPase activity and mTOR signalling.
Project description:Proteasomal shuttle factor UBQLN2 is recruited to stress granules and undergoes liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) into protein-containing droplets. Mutations to UBQLN2 have recently been shown to cause dominant X-linked inheritance of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and ALS/dementia. Interestingly, most of these UBQLN2 mutations reside in its proline-rich (Pxx) region, an important modulator of LLPS. Here, we demonstrated that ALS-linked Pxx mutations differentially affect UBQLN2 LLPS, depending on both amino acid substitution and sequence position. Using size-exclusion chromatography, analytical ultracentrifugation, microscopy, and NMR spectroscopy, we determined that those Pxx mutants that enhanced UBQLN2 oligomerization decreased saturation concentrations needed for LLPS and promoted solid-like and viscoelastic morphological changes to UBQLN2 liquid assemblies. Ubiquitin disassembled all LLPS-induced mutant UBQLN2 aggregates. We postulate that the changes in physical properties caused by ALS-linked Pxx mutations modify UBQLN2 behavior in vivo, possibly contributing to aberrant stress granule morphology and dynamics, leading to formation of inclusions, pathological characteristics of ALS.
Project description:Members of the conserved ubiquilin (UBQLN) family of ubiquitin (Ub) chaperones harbor an antipodal UBL (Ub-like)-UBA (Ub-associated) domain arrangement and participate in proteasome and autophagosome-mediated protein degradation. Mutations in a proline-rich-repeat region (PRR) of UBQLN2 cause amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)/frontotemporal dementia (FTD); however, neither the normal functions of the PRR nor impacts of ALS-associated mutations within it are well understood. In this study, we show that ALS mutations perturb UBQLN2 solubility and folding in a mutation-specific manner. Biochemical impacts of ALS mutations were additive, transferable to UBQLN1, and resulted in enhanced Ub association. A Drosophila melanogaster model for UBQLN2-associated ALS revealed that both wild-type and ALS-mutant UBQLN2 alleles disrupted Ub homeostasis; however, UBQLN2ALS mutants exhibited age-dependent aggregation and caused toxicity phenotypes beyond those seen for wild-type UBQLN2. Although UBQLN2 toxicity was not correlated with aggregation in the compound eye, aggregation-prone UBQLN2 mutants elicited climbing defects and neuromuscular junctions (NMJ) abnormalities when expressed in neurons. An UBA domain mutation that abolished Ub binding also diminished UBQLN2 toxicity, implicating Ub binding in the underlying pathomechanism. We propose that ALS-associated mutations in UBQLN2 disrupt folding and that both aggregated species and soluble oligomers instigate neuron autonomous toxicity through interference with Ub homeostasis.
Project description:Missense mutations in ubiquilin 2 (UBQLN2) cause ALS with frontotemporal dementia (ALS-FTD). Animal models of ALS are useful for understanding the mechanisms of pathogenesis and for preclinical investigations. However, previous rodent models carrying UBQLN2 mutations failed to manifest any sign of motor neuron disease. Here, we show that lines of mice expressing either the ALS-FTD-linked P497S or P506T UBQLN2 mutations have cognitive deficits, shortened lifespans, and develop motor neuron disease, mimicking the human disease. Neuropathologic analysis of the mice with end-stage disease revealed the accumulation of ubiquitinated inclusions in the brain and spinal cord, astrocytosis, a reduction in the number of hippocampal neurons, and reduced staining of TAR-DNA binding protein 43 in the nucleus, with concomitant formation of ubiquitin+ inclusions in the cytoplasm of spinal motor neurons. Moreover, both lines displayed denervation muscle atrophy and age-dependent loss of motor neurons that correlated with a reduction in the number of large-caliber axons. By contrast, two mouse lines expressing WT UBQLN2 were mostly devoid of clinical and pathological signs of disease. These UBQLN2 mouse models provide valuable tools for identifying the mechanisms underlying ALS-FTD pathogenesis and for investigating therapeutic strategies to halt disease.
Project description:Recently mutations in ubiquilin-2 were identified in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and ALS/dementia providing direct evidence for the importance of this protein in neurodegenerative diseases. Histological studies have suggested that ubiquilin-1/-2 are associated with various pathological inclusions including Lewy bodies in Parkinson's disease, neurofibrillary tangles in Alzheimer's disease, polyQ inclusions in expansion repeat diseases and various proteinopathies associated with ALS and frontotemporal dementia. Using specific ubiquilin-2 antibodies and a series of transgenic mouse models of proteinopathies associated with neurodegenerative disease, we show that ubiquilin-2 preferentially associates with huntingtin polyQ expansion aggregates compared to ?-synuclein, tau and several other types of protein inclusions. These results were confirmed by similar findings for ubiquilin-1 and -2 in human brain tissue sections, where accumulation was observed in huntingtin inclusions, but only infrequently in other types of protein inclusions. In cultured cells, ubiquilin-2 associates with huntingtin/polyQ aggregates, but this is not compromised by disease-causing mutations. Although ubiquilin proteins can function as chaperones to shuttle proteins for degradation, there is persistent co-localization between ubiquilin-2 and polyQ aggregated proteins during disease progression in the N586-82Q-C63 Huntington's disease mouse model. Thus, the co-localization of ubiquilin-2 with the huntingtin aggregates does not appear to facilitate aggregate removal.
Project description:Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a paralytic and usually fatal disorder caused by motor-neuron degeneration in the brain and spinal cord. Most cases of ALS are sporadic but about 5-10% are familial. Mutations in superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1), TAR DNA-binding protein (TARDBP, also known as TDP43) and fused in sarcoma (FUS, also known as translocated in liposarcoma (TLS)) account for approximately 30% of classic familial ALS. Mutations in several other genes have also been reported as rare causes of ALS or ALS-like syndromes. The causes of the remaining cases of familial ALS and of the vast majority of sporadic ALS are unknown. Despite extensive studies of previously identified ALS-causing genes, the pathogenic mechanism underlying motor-neuron degeneration in ALS remains largely obscure. Dementia, usually of the frontotemporal lobar type, may occur in some ALS cases. It is unclear whether ALS and dementia share common aetiology and pathogenesis in ALS/dementia. Here we show that mutations in UBQLN2, which encodes the ubiquitin-like protein ubiquilin?2, cause dominantly inherited, chromosome-X-linked ALS and ALS/dementia. We describe novel ubiquilin?2 pathology in the spinal cords of ALS cases and in the brains of ALS/dementia cases with or without UBQLN2 mutations. Ubiquilin?2 is a member of the ubiquilin family, which regulates the degradation of ubiquitinated proteins. Functional analysis showed that mutations in UBQLN2 lead to an impairment of protein degradation. Therefore, our findings link abnormalities in ubiquilin?2 to defects in the protein degradation pathway, abnormal protein aggregation and neurodegeneration, indicating a common pathogenic mechanism that can be exploited for therapeutic intervention.
Project description:Mutations of Ubiquilin 2 (UBQLN2) or TANK-binding kinase 1 (TBK1) are associated with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal degeneration (ALS/FTD). However, the mechanisms whereby UBQLN2 or TBK1 mutations lead to ALS and FTD remain unclear. Here, we explored the effect of UBQLN2 on TBK1 in HEK-293T cells or in CRISPR-Cas9-mediated IRF3 and IRF7 knockout (KO) cells. We found an interaction between TBK1 and UBQLN2, which was affected by ALS/FTD-linked mutations in TBK1 or UBQLN2. Co-expression of UBQLN2 with TBK1 elevated the protein level of TBK1 as well as the phosphorylation of TBK1 and IRF3 in a UBQLN2 dose-dependent manner, and this phosphorylation was reduced by mutant UBQLN2. In addition, the cellular production of IFN1 and related pro-inflammatory cytokines was substantially elevated when UBQLN2 and TBK1 were co-expressed, which was also decreased by mutant UBQLN2. Functional assay revealed that mutant UBQLN2 significantly reduced the binding affinity of TBK1 for its partners, including IRF3, (SQSTM1)/p62 and optineurin (OPTN). Moreover, complete loss of IRF3 abolished the induction of IFN1 and related pro-inflammatory cytokines enhanced by UBQLN2 in HEK-293T cells, whereas no significant change in IRF7 knockout cells was observed. Thus, our findings suggest that UBQLN2 promotes IRF3 phosphorylation via TBK1, leading to enhanced IFN1 induction, and also imply that the dysregulated TBK1-IRF3 pathway may play a role in UBQLN2-related neurodegeneration.
Project description:Mutations in the gene encoding ubiquilin-2 (UBQLN2) are linked to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). UBQLN2 plays a central role in ubiquitin proteasome system (UPS) and UBQLN2 up-regulation exacerbates TDP-43 cytoplasmic aggregates. To analyze interaction between UBQLN2 and TDP-43 and to produce a relevant ALS animal model, we have generated a new transgenic mouse expressing UBQLN2<sup>P497H</sup> under the neurofilament heavy (NFH) gene promoter. The UBQLN2<sup>P497H</sup> mice were then bred with our previously described TDP-43<sup>G348C</sup> mice to generate double-transgenic UBQLN2<sup>P497H</sup>; TDP-43<sup>G348C</sup> mice. With low-expression levels of UBQLN2, the double-transgenic mice developed TDP-43 cytosolic accumulations in motor neurons starting at 5 months of age. These double-transgenic mice exhibited motor neuron loss, muscle atrophy, as well as motor and cognitive deficits during aging. The microglia from double-transgenic mice were hyperresponsive to intraperitoneal injection of lipopolysaccharide (LPS). In vivo and in vitro analyses suggested that extra UBQLN2 proteins can exacerbate cytoplasmic TDP-43 accumulations by competing with the UPS for binding to ubiquitin. Thus, increasing the pool of ubiquitin promoted the UPS function with ensuing reduction of TDP-43 cytosolic accumulations. In conclusion, the double-transgenic UBQLN2<sup>P497H</sup>; TDP-43<sup>G348C</sup> mice provides a unique mouse model of ALS/FTD with enhanced TDP-43 pathology that can be exploited for drug testing.
Project description:C9ORF72-hexanucleotide repeat expansions and ubiquilin-2 (UBQLN2) mutations are recently identified genetic markers in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). We investigate the relationship between C9ORF72 expansions and the clinical phenotype and neuropathology of ALS and FTLD. Genetic analysis and immunohistochemistry (IHC) were performed on autopsy-confirmed ALS (N = 75), FTLD-TDP (N = 30), AD (N = 14), and controls (N = 11). IHC for neurodegenerative disease pathology consisted of C9ORF72, UBQLN, p62, and TDP-43. A C9ORF72 expansion was identified in 19.4 % of ALS and 31 % of FTLD-TDP cases. ALS cases with C9ORF72 expansions frequently showed a bulbar onset of disease (57 %) and more rapid disease progression to death compared to non-expansion cases. Staining with C9ORF72 antibodies did not yield specific pathology. UBQLN pathology showed a highly distinct pattern in ALS and FTLD-TDP cases with the C9ORF72 expansion, with UBQLN-positive cytoplasmic inclusions in the cerebellar granular layer and extensive UBQLN-positive aggregates and dystrophic neurites in the hippocampal molecular layer and CA regions. These UBQLN pathologies were sufficiently unique to allow correct prediction of cases that were later confirmed to have C9ORF72 expansions by genetic analysis. UBQLN pathology partially co-localized with p62, and to a minor extent with TDP-43 positive dystrophic neurites and spinal cord skein-like inclusions. Our data indicate a pathophysiological link between C9ORF72 expansions and UBQLN proteins in ALS and FTLD-TDP that is associated with a highly characteristic pattern of UBQLN pathology. Our study indicates that this pathology is associated with alterations in clinical phenotype, and suggests that the presence of C9ORF72 repeat expansions may indicate a worse prognosis in ALS.
Project description:The brain-expressed ubiquilins, UBQLNs 1, 2 and 4, are highly homologous proteins that participate in multiple aspects of protein homeostasis and are implicated in neurodegenerative diseases. Studies have established that UBQLN2 forms liquid-like condensates and accumulates in pathogenic aggregates, much like other proteins linked to neurodegenerative diseases. However, the relative condensate and aggregate formation of the three brain-expressed ubiquilins is unknown. Here we report that the three ubiquilins differ in aggregation propensity, revealed by in-vitro experiments, cellular models, and analysis of human brain tissue. UBQLN4 displays heightened aggregation propensity over the other ubiquilins and, like amyloids, UBQLN4 forms ThioflavinT-positive fibrils in vitro. Measuring fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP) of puncta in cells, we report that all three ubiquilins undergo liquid-liquid phase transition. UBQLN2 and 4 exhibit slower recovery than UBQLN1, suggesting the condensates formed by these brain-expressed ubiquilins have different compositions and undergo distinct internal rearrangements. We conclude that while all brain-expressed ubiquilins exhibit self-association behavior manifesting as condensates, they follow distinct courses of phase-separation and aggregation. We suggest that this variability among ubiquilins along the continuum from liquid-like to solid informs both the normal ubiquitin-linked functions of ubiquilins and their accumulation and potential contribution to toxicity in neurodegenerative diseases.