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Sci Rep. 2016 Jul 6;6:29395. doi: 10.1038/srep29395.

Impaired neurodevelopment by the low complexity domain of CPEB4 reveals a convergent pathway with neurodegeneration.

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Program in Molecular Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA.
Department of Neurology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA.


CPEB4 is an RNA binding protein expressed in neuronal tissues including brain and spinal cord. CPEB4 has two domains: one that is structured for RNA binding and one that is unstructured and low complexity that has no known function. Unstructured low complexity domains (LCDs) in proteins are often found in RNA-binding proteins and have been implicated in motor neuron degenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, indicating that these regions mediate normal RNA processing as well as pathological events. While CPEB4 null knockout mice are normal, animals expressing only the CPEB4 LCD are neonatal lethal with impaired mobility that display defects in neuronal development such as reduced motor axon branching and abnormal neuromuscular junction formation. Although full-length CPEB4 is nearly exclusively cytoplasmic, the CPEB4 LCD forms nucleolar aggregates and CPEB4 LCD-expressing animals have altered ribosomal RNA biogenesis, ribosomal protein gene expression, and elevated levels of stress response genes such as the actin-bundling protein DRR1, which impedes neurite outgrowth. Some of these features share similarities with other LCD-related neurodegenerative disease. Most strikingly, DRR1 appears to be a common focus of several neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders. Our study reveals a possible molecular convergence between a neurodevelopmental defect and neurodegeneration mediated by LCDs.

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