November 25, 2020

A C. elegans model of C9orf72-associated ALS/FTD uncovers a conserved role for eIF2D in RAN translation

A hexanucleotide repeat expansion GGGGCC in the noncoding region of C9orf72 is the most common cause of inherited amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Potentially toxic dipeptide repeats (DPRs) are synthesized from the GGGGCC sequence via repeat associated non-AUG (RAN) translation. We developed C. elegans models that express, either ubiquitously or exclusively in neurons, a transgene with 75 GGGGCC repeats flanked by intronic C9orf72 sequence. The worms generate DPRs (poly-glycine-alanine [poly-GA], poly-glycine-proline [poly-GP]) and display neurodegeneration, locomotor and lifespan defects.

Mutation of a non-canonical translation-initiating codon (CUG) upstream of the repeats blocked poly-GA production and ameliorated disease, suggesting poly-GA is pathogenic. Importantly, eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2D (eif-2D/eIF2D) was necessary for RAN translation. Genetic removal of eif-2D increased lifespan in both C. elegans models. In vitro findings in human cells demonstrated a conserved role for eif-2D/eIF2D in RAN translation that could be exploited for ALS and FTD therapy.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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