Nuclear depletion of TDP-43, an essential RNA binding protein, may underlie neurodegeneration in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). As several functions have been ascribed to this protein, the critical role(s) of TDP-43 in motor neurons that may be compromised in ALS remains unknown. We show here that TDP-43 mediated splicing repression, which serves to protect the transcriptome by preventing aberrant splicing, is central to the physiology of motor neurons. Expression in Drosophila TDP-43 knockout models of a chimeric repressor, comprised of the RNA recognition domain of TDP-43 fused to an unrelated splicing repressor, RAVER1, attenuated motor deficits and extended lifespan. Likewise, AAV9-mediated delivery of this chimeric rescue repressor to mice lacking TDP-43 in motor neurons delayed the onset, slowed the progression of motor symptoms, and markedly extended their lifespan. In treated mice lacking TDP-43 in motor neurons, aberrant splicing was significantly decreased and accompanied by amelioration of axon degeneration and motor neuron loss. This AAV9 strategy allowed long-term expression of the chimeric repressor without any adverse effects. Our findings establish that splicing repression is a major function of TDP-43 in motor neurons and strongly support the idea that loss of TDP-43-mediated splicing fidelity represents a key pathogenic mechanism underlying motor neuron loss in ALS.
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Cryptic exon
- Motor neuron
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine
- Clinical Neurology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience