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Neurobiol Dis. 2019 Apr;124:297-310. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2018.11.025. Epub 2018 Dec 4.

Tryptophan 32 mediates SOD1 toxicity in a in vivo motor neuron model of ALS and is a promising target for small molecule therapeutics.

Author information

1
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2E9, Canada.
2
Nanotechnology Research Centre, Edmonton, AB T6G 2M9, Canada; Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 1H9, Canada.
3
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2E9, Canada; Centre for Prions and Protein Folding Diseases, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2M8, Canada.
4
Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 2B5, Canada.
5
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2E9, Canada; Centre for Prions and Protein Folding Diseases, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2M8, Canada; Department of Medical Genetics, University of Alberta, Edmonton T6G 2H7, Canada. Electronic address: ted.allison@ualberta.ca.

Abstract

SOD1 misfolding, toxic gain of function, and spread are proposed as a pathological basis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), but the nature of SOD1 toxicity has been difficult to elucidate. Uniquely in SOD1 proteins from humans and other primates, and rarely in other species, a tryptophan residue at position 32 (W32) is predicted to be solvent exposed and to participate in SOD1 misfolding. We hypothesized that W32 is influential in SOD1 acquiring toxicity, as it is known to be important in template-directed misfolding. We tested if W32 contributes to SOD1 cytotoxicity and if it is an appropriate drug target to ameliorate ALS-like neuromuscular deficits in a zebrafish model of motor neuron axon morphology and function (swimming). Embryos injected with human SOD1 variant with W32 substituted for a serine (SOD1W32S) had reduced motor neuron axonopathy and motor deficits compared to those injected with wildtype or disease-associated SOD1. A library of FDA-approved small molecules was ranked with virtual screening based on predicted binding to W32, and subsequently filtered for analogues using a pharmacophore model based on molecular features of the uracil moiety of a small molecule previously predicted to interact with W32 (5'-fluorouridine or 5'-FUrd). Along with testing 5'-FUrd and uridine, a lead candidate from this list was selected based on its lower toxicity and improved blood brain barrier penetrance; telbivudine significantly rescued SOD1 toxicity in a dose-dependent manner. The mechanisms whereby the small molecules ameliorated motor neuron phenotypes were specifically mediated through human SOD1 and its residue W32, because these therapeutics had no measurable impact on the effects of UBQLN4D90A, EtOH, or tryptophan-deficient human SOD1W32S. By substituting W32 for a more evolutionarily conserved residue (serine), we confirmed the significant influence of W32 on human SOD1 toxicity to motor neuron morphology and function; further, we performed pharmaceutical targeting of the W32 residue for rescuing SOD1 toxicity. This unique residue offers future novel insights into SOD1 stability and toxic gain of function, and therefore poses an potential target for drug therapy.

KEYWORDS:

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Neuromuscular disease; Nucleoside; Prion-like disease; Protein misfolding; Therapeutic; Uracil; Zebrafish; [Cu-Zn] superoxide dismutase 1

PMID:
30528257
DOI:
10.1016/j.nbd.2018.11.025

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