Cytoplasmic aggregated proteins are a common neuropathological feature of neurodegenerative diseases. Cytoplasmic mislocalization and aggregation of TAR-DNA binding protein 43 (TDP-43) is found in the majority of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and in approximately 50% of patients dying of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). In this issue of the JCI, Prudencio, Humphrey, Pickles, and colleagues investigated the relationship of TDP-43 pathology with the loss of stathmin-2 (STMN2), an essential protein for axonal growth and maintenance. Comparing genetic, cellular, and neuropathological data from patients with TDP-43 proteinopathies (ALS, ALS–frontotemporal dementia [ALS-FTD], and FTLD-TDP-43 [FTLD-TDP]) with data from patients with non-TDP–related neurodegenerations, they demonstrate a direct relationship between TDP-43 pathology and STMN2 reduction. Loss of the normal transcription suppressor function of TDP-43 allowed transcription of an early termination cryptic axon, resulting in truncated, nonfunctional mRNA. The authors suggest that measurement of truncated STMN2 mRNA could be a biomarker for discerning TDP proteinopathies from other pathologies.
Jonathan D. Glass
The puzzle of neurodegeneration.