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Disease-linked TDP-43 hyperphosphorylation suppresses TDP-43 condensation and aggregation

By Lara Aletta Gruijs da Silva, Francesca Simonetti, Saskia Hutten, Henrick Riemenschneider, Erin L Sternburg, Lisa M Pietrek, Jakob Gebel, Volker Doetsch, Dieter Edbauer, Gerhard Hummer, Lukas S Stelzl, Dorothee Dormann

Posted 30 Apr 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.04.30.442163

Post-translational modifications (PTMs) have emerged as key modulators of protein phase separation and have been linked to protein aggregation in neurodegenerative disorders. The major aggregating protein in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), the RNA-binding protein TDP-43, is hyperphosphorylated in disease on several C-terminal serine residues, which is generally believed to promote TDP-43 aggregation. Here, we show that hyperphosphorylation by Casein kinase 1{delta} or C-terminal phosphomimetic mutations surprisingly reduce TDP-43 phase separation and aggregation and render TDP-43 condensates more liquid-like and dynamic. Multi-scale simulations reveal reduced homotypic interactions of TDP-43 low complexity domains through enhanced solvation of phosphomimetic residues. Cellular experiments show that phosphomimetic substitutions do not affect nuclear import or RNA regulatory functions of TDP-43, but suppress accumulation of TDP-43 in membrane-less organelles and promote its solubility in neurons. We propose that TDP-43 hyperphosphorylation may be a protective cellular response to counteract TDP-43 aggregation.

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