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Hum Mol Genet. 2005 Dec 1;14(23):3643-59. Epub 2005 Oct 19.

RNA-binding protein is involved in aggregation of light neurofilament protein and is implicated in the pathogenesis of motor neuron degeneration.

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  • 1Division of Neuropathology, University of Pennsylvania Medical School, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Abnormal protein aggregation is emerging as a common theme in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disease. Our previous studies have shown that overexpression of untranslated light neurofilament (NF-L) RNA causes motor neuron degeneration in transgenic mice, leads to accumulation of ubiquitinated aggregates in degenerating cultured motor neurons and triggers aggregation of NF-L protein and co-aggregation of mutant SOD1 protein in neuronal cells. Here, we report that p190RhoGEF, an RNA-binding protein that binds to a destabilizing element in NF-L mRNA, is involved in aggregation of NF-L protein and is implicated in the pathogenesis of motor neuron degeneration. We show that p190RhoGEF co-aggregates with unassembled NF-L protein and that co-aggregation is associated with down-regulation of parent NF-L mRNA in neuronal cells. Co-expression of NF-M increases NF assembly and reduces RNA-triggered aggregation as well as loss of solubility of NF-L protein. siRNA-induced down-regulation of p190RhoGEF not only reduces aggregation and promotes assembly of NF-L and NF-M, but also causes reversal of aggregation and recovery of NF assembly in transfected cells. Examination of transgenic models of motor neuron disease shows that prominent aggregates of p190RhoGEF and NF-L and down-regulation of NF-L expression occur in degenerating motor neurons of mice expressing untranslated NF-L RNA or a G93A mutant SOD1 transgene. Moreover, aggregates of p190RhoGEF and NF-L appear as early pathological changes in presymptomatic G93A mutant SOD1 transgenic mice. Together, the findings indicate that p190RhoGEF is involved in aggregation of NF-L protein and support a working hypothesis that aggregation of p190RhoGEF and NF-L is an upstream event triggering neurotoxicity in motor neuron disease.

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