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Hum Mol Genet. 2011 May 15;20(10):1952-65. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddr076. Epub 2011 Feb 25.

TDP-43 neurotoxicity and protein aggregation modulated by heat shock factor and insulin/IGF-1 signaling.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Bloomberg School of Public Health, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA.


TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43) plays a key role in the neurodegenerative diseases including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal lobar degeneration. The nature of the TDP-43-mediated neurotoxicity associated with these diseases is not yet understood. Here, we have established transgenic Caenorhabditis elegans models that express human TDP-43 variants in the nervous system, including the full-length wild-type (WT) and mutant proteins and a pathologic C-terminal fragment. The C. elegans models developed severe locomotor defects associated with the aggregation of TDP-43 in neurons. In comparison to parallel Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase worm models, transgenic full-length TDP-43, including the WT protein, was highly neurotoxic. In addition, TDP-43 demonstrated an unusually high tendency to aggregate, a property intrinsic to the WT protein. The C-terminal 25 kDa fragment of TDP-43 was unstable but remarkably aggregation-prone. Distinct disulfide-linked TDP-43 dimers and oligomers were detected. In C. elegans, the neurotoxicity and the protein aggregation of TDP-43 were regulated by environmental temperature and heat shock transcriptional factor 1, indicating that a deficiency in protein quality control is a risk factor for TDP-43 proteinopathy. Furthermore, the neurotoxicity and the protein aggregation of TDP-43 can be significantly attenuated by a deficiency in the insulin/insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) signaling in C. elegans and mammalian cells. These results suggest that protein misfolding underlies the aging-dependent neurodegeneration associated with TDP-43 and that the insulin/IGF-1 signaling may be a target for therapies.

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