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JIMD Rep. 2012;2:59-69. doi: 10.1007/8904_2011_49. Epub 2011 Sep 6.

Treatment of Human Fibroblasts Carrying NPC1 Missense Mutations with MG132 Leads to an Improvement of Intracellular Cholesterol Trafficking.

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  • 1Regional Coordinator Centre for Rare Disease, University Hospital "Santa Maria della Misericordia", Piazzale "S. Maria della Misericordia", 15, 33100, Udine, Italy.


Niemann Pick type C (NPC) disease is an autosomal recessive disorder characterized by the lysosomal/late endosomal (LE) accumulation of unesterified cholesterol and other lipids due to a defect in the intracellular lipid trafficking. About 95% of patients present mutations in the NPC1 gene. Among the 290 mutations reported in the NPC1 gene, about 70% are missense. However, little information is available regarding the impact of missense mutations on NPC1 protein stability and function. In this study, we in vitro characterized the pathogenic effect of 7 NPC1 missense mutations. In all cases, the basal levels of mutant NPC1 expression were reduced with respect to wild type. Treatment of fibroblasts carrying NPC1 missense mutations in homo or hemizygosity, with the proteasome inhibitor MG132 or glycerol 10%, a chemical chaperone known to stabilize misfolded proteins, resulted in a significant increase of NPC1 protein levels in all cell lines, indicating that these mutants are subjected to proteasomal degradation due to protein misfolding The increment of NPC1 mutant protein induced by the proteasome inhibitor was associated with a localization of NPC1 protein within lysosomal/LE compartment. In cell lines carrying mutations p.N1156S, p.L1191F, p.V1165M, and p.I1061T, the increment of NPC1 mutant protein resulted in an improvement of the intracellular trafficking of cholesterol and GM1. These findings showed that it is possible to correct the NPC cellular phenotype by increasing the amount of endogenous NPC1 mutated protein, suggesting that at least some NPC1 mutations might be potentially rescued by small molecules-based chaperone therapy.

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