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Exp Cell Res. 2011 Oct 1;317(16):2252-66. doi: 10.1016/j.yexcr.2011.06.017. Epub 2011 Jul 2.

Alexander disease causing mutations in the C-terminal domain of GFAP are deleterious both to assembly and network formation with the potential to both activate caspase 3 and decrease cell viability.

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  • 1Institute of Molecular Medicine, College of Life Sciences, National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu 300, Taiwan.


Alexander disease is a primary genetic disorder of astrocyte caused by dominant mutations in the astrocyte-specific intermediate filament glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP). While most of the disease-causing mutations described to date have been found in the conserved α-helical rod domain, some mutations are found in the C-terminal non-α-helical tail domain. Here, we compare five different mutations (N386I, S393I, S398F, S398Y and D417M14X) located in the C-terminal domain of GFAP on filament assembly properties in vitro and in transiently transfected cultured cells. All the mutations disrupted in vitro filament assembly. The mutations also affected the solubility and promoted filament aggregation of GFAP in transiently transfected MCF7, SW13 and U343MG cells. This correlated with the activation of the p38 stress-activated protein kinase and an increased association with the small heat shock protein (sHSP) chaperone, αB-crystallin. Of the mutants studied, D417M14X GFAP caused the most significant effects both upon filament assembly in vitro and in transiently transfected cells. This mutant also caused extensive filament aggregation coinciding with the sequestration of αB-crystallin and HSP27 as well as inhibition of the proteosome and activation of p38 kinase. Associated with these changes were an activation of caspase 3 and a significant decrease in astrocyte viability. We conclude that some mutations in the C-terminus of GFAP correlate with caspase 3 cleavage and the loss of cell viability, suggesting that these could be contributory factors in the development of Alexander disease.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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