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Genes Cells. 2014 Mar;19(3):209-24. doi: 10.1111/gtc.12125. Epub 2014 Jan 23.

Dysregulation of the proteasome increases the toxicity of ALS-linked mutant SOD1.

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Laboratory of Molecular Cell Dynamics, Faculty of Advanced Life Science, Hokkaido University, N21W11, Kita-ku, Sapporo, 001-0021, Japan; Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Institute for Frontier Medical Sciences, Kyoto University, 53 Shogoin Kawahara-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, 606-8397, Japan.


A hallmark of protein conformational disease, exemplified by neurodegenerative disorders, is the expression of misfolded and aggregated proteins. The relationship between protein aggregation and cellular toxicity is complex, and various models of experimental pathophysiology have often yielded conflicting or controversial results. In this study, we examined the biophysical properties of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)-linked mutations of Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) expressed in human tissue culture cells. Fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) and Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) analyses revealed that changes in proteasome activity affected both the expression of FCS- and FRET-detected oligomers and cellular toxicity. Under normal conditions, highly aggregation-prone mutant SOD1 exhibited very little toxicity. However, when the activity of the proteasome was transiently inhibited, only upon recovery did we observe the appearance of ordered soluble oligomers, which were closely correlated with cellular toxicity. These results shed light on the importance of balance in proteostasis and suggest that transient shifts of activity in the cellular machinery can alter the course of protein conformational transitions and dysregulate modulation of proteasome activity. In neurodegenerative disorders including ALS, such changes may be a risk factor for pathogenesis.

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