Wild-type FUS corrects ALS-like disease induced by cytoplasmic mutant FUS through autoregulation

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Abstract

Mutations in FUS, an RNA-binding protein involved in multiple steps of RNA metabolism, are associated with the most severe forms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Accumulation of cytoplasmic FUS is likely to be a major culprit in the toxicity of FUS mutations. Thus, preventing cytoplasmic mislocalization of the FUS protein may represent a valuable therapeutic strategy. FUS binds to its own pre-mRNA creating an autoregulatory loop efficiently buffering FUS excess through multiple proposed mechanisms including retention of introns 6 and/or 7. Here, we introduced a wild-type FUS gene allele, retaining all intronic sequences, in mice whose heterozygous or homozygous expression of a cytoplasmically retained FUS protein (Fus∆NLS) was previously shown to provoke ALS-like disease or postnatal lethality, respectively. Wild-type FUS completely rescued the early lethality caused by the two Fus∆NLS alleles, and improved the age-dependent motor deficits and reduced lifespan caused by heterozygous expression of mutant FUS∆NLS. Mechanistically, wild-type FUS decreased the load of cytoplasmic FUS, increased retention of introns 6 and 7 in the endogenous mouse Fus mRNA, and decreased expression of the mutant mRNA. Thus, the wild-type FUS allele activates the homeostatic autoregulatory loop, maintaining constant FUS levels and decreasing the mutant protein in the cytoplasm. These results provide proof of concept that an autoregulatory competent wild-type FUS expression could protect against this devastating, currently intractable, neurodegenerative disease.

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Sanjuan-Ruiz, I., Govea-Perez, N., McAlonis-Downes, M., Dieterle, S., Megat, S., Dirrig-Grosch, S., … Dupuis, L. (2021). Wild-type FUS corrects ALS-like disease induced by cytoplasmic mutant FUS through autoregulation. Molecular Neurodegeneration, 16(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13024-021-00477-w

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