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Small Molecule Targeting TDP-43's RNA Recognition Motifs Reduces Locomotor Defects in a Drosophila Model of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

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Abstract

RNA dysregulation likely contributes to disease pathogenesis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other neurodegenerative diseases. A pathological form of the transactive response (TAR) DNA binding protein (TDP-43) binds to RNA in stress granules and forms membraneless, amyloid-like TDP-43 aggregates in the cytoplasm of ALS motor neurons. In this study, we hypothesized that by targeting the RNA recognition motif (RRM) domains of TDP-43 that confer a pathogenic interaction between TDP-43 and RNA, motor neuron toxicity could be reduced. In silico docking of 50000 compounds to the RRM domains of TDP-43 identified a small molecule (rTRD01) that (i) bound to TDP-43's RRM1 and RRM2 domains, (ii) partially disrupted TDP-43's interaction with the hexanucleotide RNA repeat of the disease-linked c9orf72 gene, but not with (UG)6 canonical binding sequence of TDP-43, and (iii) improved larval turning, an assay measuring neuromuscular coordination and strength, in an ALS fly model based on the overexpression of mutant TDP-43. Our findings provide an instructive example of a chemical biology approach pivoted to discover small molecules targeting RNA-protein interactions in neurodegenerative diseases.

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François-Moutal, L., Felemban, R., Scott, D. D., Sayegh, M. R., Miranda, V. G., Perez-Miller, S., … Khanna, M. (2019). Small Molecule Targeting TDP-43’s RNA Recognition Motifs Reduces Locomotor Defects in a Drosophila Model of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). ACS Chemical Biology, 14(9), 2006–2013. https://doi.org/10.1021/acschembio.9b00481

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