EMBO molecular medicine

Spliceosome integrity is defective in the motor neuron diseases ALS and SMA.

PMID 23255347


Two motor neuron diseases, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), are caused by distinct genes involved in RNA metabolism, TDP-43 and FUS/TLS, and SMN, respectively. However, whether there is a shared defective mechanism in RNA metabolism common to these two diseases remains unclear. Here, we show that TDP-43 and FUS/TLS localize in nuclear Gems through an association with SMN, and that all three proteins function in spliceosome maintenance. We also show that in ALS, Gems are lost, U snRNA levels are up-regulated and spliceosomal U snRNPs abnormally and extensively accumulate in motor neuron nuclei, but not in the temporal lobe of FTLD with TDP-43 pathology. This aberrant accumulation of U snRNAs in ALS motor neurons is in direct contrast to SMA motor neurons, which show reduced amounts of U snRNAs, while both have defects in the spliceosome. These findings indicate that a profound loss of spliceosome integrity is a critical mechanism common to neurodegeneration in ALS and SMA, and may explain cell-type specific vulnerability of motor neurons.