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Hum Mol Genet. 2001 Sep 15;10(19):2123-31.

CLN3 protein is targeted to neuronal synapses but excluded from synaptic vesicles: new clues to Batten disease.

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National Public Health Institute, Department of Molecular Medicine, Biomedicum Helsinki, PO Box 104, Haartmaninkatu 8, FIN-00251 Helsinki, Finland.


Batten disease (juvenile neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis, JNCL), the most common neurodegenerative disease of childhood, is caused by mutations in the CLN3 gene encoding a putative transmembrane protein. The function of CLN3 is currently unknown but it has been shown to localize in the endosomal/lysosomal compartments of non-neuronal cells. In addition, several other intracellular localizations have been proposed and the controversy of the reports suggests that CLN3 may have different intracellular localization in different cell types. Batten disease severely affects neuronal cells but leaves other organs clinically unaffected, and thus it is of utmost importance to approach the disease mechanism by studying the expression and localization of CLN3 in the brain and neuronal cells. We have analysed here CLN3 in the mouse brain using in situ hybridization, immunohistochemical staining and western blot analysis of subcellular fractions. As visual deterioration is the hallmark of Batten disease we have set up primary retinal cultures from the mouse and analysed both endogenous mouse CLN3 and Semliki Forest virus-mediated human CLN3 localization using immunofluorescence staining and confocal microscopy. We demonstrate that CLN3 is abundantly expressed in neuronal cells, especially in the cortex, hippocampus and cerebellum of the adult mouse brain. Furthermore, our results indicate that in neurons CLN3 is not solely a lysosomal protein. It is localized in the synaptosomes but, interestingly, is not targeted to the synaptic vesicles. The novel localization of CLN3 directs attention towards molecular alterations at the synapses. This should yield important clues about the mechanisms of neurodegeneration in Batten disease.

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