ALS-implicated protein TDP-43 sustains levels of STMN2, a mediator of motor neuron growth and repair

Published Date: 
January 14, 2019

Klim JR, Williams LA, Limone F, Guerra San Juan I, Davis-Dusenbery BN, Mordes DA, Burberry A, Steinbaugh MJ, Gamage KK, Kirchner R, Moccia R, Cassel SH, Chen K, Wainger BJ, Woolf CJ, Eggan K

The findings that amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients almost universally display pathological mislocalization of the RNA-binding protein TDP-43 and that mutations in its gene cause familial ALS have nominated altered RNA metabolism as a disease mechanism. However, the RNAs regulated by TDP-43 in motor neurons and their connection to neuropathy remain to be identified. Here we report transcripts whose abundances in human motor neurons are sensitive to TDP-43 depletion. Notably, expression of STMN2, which encodes a microtubule regulator, declined after TDP-43 knockdown and TDP-43 mislocalization as well as in patient-specific motor neurons and postmortem patient spinal cord. STMN2 loss upon reduced TDP-43 function was due to altered splicing, which is functionally important, as we show STMN2 is necessary for normal axonal outgrowth and regeneration. Notably, post-translational stabilization of STMN2 rescued neurite outgrowth and axon regeneration deficits induced by TDP-43 depletion. We propose that restoring STMN2 expression warrants examination as a therapeutic strategy for ALS.