Staufen1 in Human Neurodegeneration

Sharan Paul, Warunee Dansithong, Karla P Figueroa, Mandi Gandelman, Daniel R Scoles, Stefan M Pulst
Annals of Neurology 2021 March 21

OBJECTIVE: Mutations in the ATXN2 gene (CAG expansions ≥32 repeats) can be a rare cause of Parkinson's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). We recently reported that the stress granule (SG) protein Staufen1 (STAU1) was overabundant in neurodegenerative disorder spinocerebellar ataxia type 2 (SCA2) patient cells, animal models, and ALS-TDP-43 fibroblasts, and provided a link between SG formation and autophagy. We aimed to test if STAU1 overabundance has a role in the pathogenesis of other neurodegenerative diseases.

METHODS: With multiple neurodegenerative patient-derived cell models, animal models, and human postmortem ALS tissue, we evaluate STAU1 function using biochemical and immunohistological analyses.

RESULTS: We demonstrate STAU1 overabundance and increased total and phosphorylated mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) in fibroblast cells from patients with ALS with mutations in TDP-43, patients with dementia with PSEN1 mutations, a patient with parkinsonism with MAPT mutation, Huntington's disease (HD) mutations, and SCA2 mutations. Increased STAU1 levels and mTOR activity were seen in human ALS spinal cord tissues as well as in animal models. Changes in STAU1 and mTOR protein levels were post-transcriptional. Exogenous expression of STAU1 in wildtype cells was sufficient to activate mTOR and downstream targets and form SGs. Targeting STAU1 by RNAi normalized mTOR, suggesting a potential role for therapy in diseases associated with STAU1 overabundance.

INTERPRETATION: STAU1 overabundance in neurodegeneration is a common phenomenon associated with hyperactive mTOR. Targeting STAU1 with ASOs or miRNA viral vectors may represent a novel, efficacious therapy for neurodegenerative diseases characterized by overabundant STAU1. ANN NEUROL 2021.

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