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J Cell Biol. Feb 23, 2009; 184(4): 501–513.
PMCID: PMC2654119

WldS requires Nmnat1 enzymatic activity and N16–VCP interactions to suppress Wallerian degeneration


Slow Wallerian degeneration (WldS) encodes a chimeric Ube4b/nicotinamide mononucleotide adenylyl transferase 1 (Nmnat1) fusion protein that potently suppresses Wallerian degeneration, but the mechanistic action of WldS remains controversial. In this study, we characterize WldS-mediated axon protection in vivo using Drosophila melanogaster. We show that Nmnat1 can protect severed axons from autodestruction but at levels significantly lower than WldS, and enzyme-dead versions of Nmnat1 and WldS exhibit severely reduced axon-protective function. Interestingly, a 16–amino acid N-terminal domain of WldS (termed N16) accounts for the differences in axon-sparing activity between WldS and Nmnat1, and N16-dependent enhancement of Nmnat1-protective activity in WldS requires the N16-binding protein valosin-containing protein (VCP)/TER94. Thus, WldS-mediated suppression of Wallerian degeneration results from VCP–N16 interactions and Nmnat1 activity converging in vivo. Surprisingly, mouse Nmnat3, a mitochondrial Nmnat enzyme that localizes to the cytoplasm in Drosophila cells, protects severed axons at levels indistinguishable from WldS. Thus, nuclear Nmnat activity does not appear to be essential for WldS-like axon protection.

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