Mutation-dependent aggregation and toxicity in a Drosophila model for UBQLN2-associated ALS

TitleMutation-dependent aggregation and toxicity in a Drosophila model for UBQLN2-associated ALS
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsKim, SH, Stiles, SG, Feichtmeier, JM, Ramesh, N, Zhan, L, Scalf, MA, Smith, LM, U. Pandey, B, Tibbetts, RS
JournalHuman Molecular GeneticsHuman Molecular Genetics
Date PublishedJan 15
ISBN Number0964-6906

Members of the conserved ubiquilin (UBQLN) family of ubiquitin (Ub) chaperones harbor an antipodal UBL (Ub-like)-UBA (Ub-associated) domain arrangement and participate in proteasome and autophagosome-mediated protein degradation. Mutations in a proline-rich-repeat region (PRR) of UBQLN2 cause amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)/frontotemporal dementia (FTD); however, neither the normal functions of the PRR nor impacts of ALS-associated mutations within it are well understood. In this study, we show that ALS mutations perturb UBQLN2 solubility and folding in a mutation-specific manner. Biochemical impacts of ALS mutations were additive, transferable to UBQLN1, and resulted in enhanced Ub association. A Drosophila melanogaster model for UBQLN2-associated ALS revealed that both wild-type and ALS-mutant UBQLN2 alleles disrupted Ub homeostasis; however, UBQLN2ALS mutants exhibited age-dependent aggregation and caused toxicity phenotypes beyond those seen for wild-type UBQLN2. Although UBQLN2 toxicity was not correlated with aggregation in the compound eye, aggregation-prone UBQLN2 mutants elicited climbing defects and neuromuscular junctions (NMJ) abnormalities when expressed in neurons. An UBA domain mutation that abolished Ub binding also diminished UBQLN2 toxicity, implicating Ub binding in the underlying pathomechanism. We propose that ALS-associated mutations in UBQLN2 disrupt folding and that both aggregated species and soluble oligomers instigate neuron autonomous toxicity through interference with Ub homeostasis.