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Hum Mol Genet. 2013 Jun 15;22(12):2350-60. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddt080. Epub 2013 Feb 26.

Investigating the contribution of VAPB/ALS8 loss of function in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

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Centre de Recherche de l’Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle Épiniere (CRICM), Paris, France.


The mutations P56S and T46I in the gene encoding vesicle-associated membrane protein-associated protein B/C (VAPB) cause ALS8, a familial form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Overexpression of mutant forms of VAPB leads to cytosolic aggregates, suggesting a gain of function of the mutant protein. However, recent work suggested that the loss of VAPB function could be the major mechanism leading to ALS8. Here, we used multiple genetic and experimental approaches to study whether VAPB loss of function might be sufficient to trigger motor neuron degeneration. In order to identify additional ALS-associated VAPB mutations, we screened the entire VAPB gene in a cohort of ALS patients and detected two mutations (A145V and S160Δ). To directly address the contribution of VAPB loss of function in ALS, we generated zebrafish and mouse models with either a decreased or a complete loss of Vapb expression. Vapb knockdown in zebrafish led to swimming deficits. Mice knocked-out for Vapb showed mild motor deficits after 18 months of age yet had innervated neuromuscular junctions (NMJs). Importantly, overexpression of VAPB mutations were unable to rescue the motor deficit caused by Vapb knockdown in zebrafish and failed to cause a toxic gain-of-function defect on their own. Thus, Vapb loss of function weakens the motor system of vertebrate animal models but is on its own unable to lead to a complete ALS phenotype. Our findings are consistent with the notion that VAPB mutations constitute a risk factor for motor neuron disease through a loss of VAPB function.

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