The GGGGCC (G4C2) repeat expansion in a noncoding region of C9orf72 is the most common cause of sporadic and familial forms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia1,2. The basis for pathogenesis is unknown. To elucidate the consequences of G4C2 repeat expansion in a tractable genetic system, we generated transgenic fly lines expressing 8, 28 or 58 G4C2-repeat-containing transcripts that do not have a translation start site (AUG) but contain an open-reading frame for green fluorescent protein to detect repeat-associated non-AUG (RAN) translation. We show that these transgenic animals display dosage-dependent, repeat-length-dependent degeneration in neuronal tissues and RAN translation of dipeptide repeat (DPR) proteins, as observed in patients with C9orf72-related disease. This model was used in a large-scale, unbiased genetic screen, ultimately leading to the identification of 18 genetic modifiers that encode components of the nuclear pore complex (NPC), as well as the machinery that coordinates the export of nuclear RNA and the import of nuclear proteins. Consistent with these results, we found morphological abnormalities in the architecture of the nuclear envelope in cells expressing expanded G4C2 repeats in vitro and in vivo. Moreover, we identified a substantial defect in RNA export resulting in retention of RNA in the nuclei of Drosophila cells expressing expanded G4C2 repeats and also in mammalian cells, including aged induced pluripotent stem-cell-derived neurons from patients with C9orf72-related disease. These studies show that a primary consequence of G4C2 repeat expansion is the compromise of nucleocytoplasmic transport through the nuclear pore, revealing a novel mechanism of neurodegeneration.
Access optionsAccess options
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $3.90 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
We thank the Bloomington Drosophila Stock Center, the VDRC Stock Center, K. McKim and E. Baehrecke for fly lines, V. Budnik for Lamin C antibody, as well as the Cell and Tissue Imaging Center at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the University of Massachusetts Medical School Confocal Core for assistance. This work was supported by grants from Target ALS, The Packard Center for ALS Research at the Johns Hopkins University, and the ALS Association to F.-B.G., and J.P.T., and ALS Therapy Alliance, NIH (N079725) to F.-B.G., NIH (NS079725 and AG019724) to B.L.M., and the American-Lebanese-Syrian Associated Charities to J.P.T.
Extended data figures
This file contains Supplementary Tables 1-6.