"A strength of this study is that it provides a unifying hypothesis about how different genetic mutations all affect stress granules, which suggests that understanding stress granule dynamics and how they can be manipulated might be beneficial for treatment of these diseases," Parker said.
Earlier work from Taylor's laboratory identified mutations in VCP as a cause of ALS and related multisystem proteinopathies. Until now, however, little was known about how those mistakes caused disease. The latest findings appeared in the June 20 issue and are highlighted in a review article published in the August 15 issue of Cell.
The research also ties VCP mutations to disruption of RNA regulation, which prior studies have connected to the progression of neurodegenerative diseases, said Regina-Maria Kolaitis, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in Taylor's laboratory. She and Ross Buchan, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in Parker's laboratory, are co-first authors.
The work focused on a class of RNA granules called stress granules. They are formed by proteins and an RNA molecule called mRNA that accumulates in the cell cytoplasm in response to stress. Stressed cells do not want to waste energy producing unnecessary proteins. Stress granules are one mechanism cells use to halt production until the cellular environment normalizes, which is when stress granules typically dissolve.
Proteins found in stress granules include RNA-binding proteins like TDP-43, FUS, hnRNPA1 and hnRNPA2B1 that regulate gene activity. Mutations in those proteins can also cause ALS and related disorders.
"VCP has many functions in cells, but it is not an RNA-binding protein and until now it was not connected to stress granules or RNA processing," Kolaitis said. "This study provides a new window into the disease process, highlighting VCP's role in keeping cells healthy."
For this study, researchers used yeast to
|Contact: Carrie Strehlau|
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital