Research Article

HSP70 chaperones RNA-free TDP-43 into anisotropic intranuclear liquid spherical shells

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Science  17 Dec 2020:
eabb4309
DOI: 10.1126/science.abb4309

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Abstract

The RNA-binding protein TDP-43 forms intranuclear or cytoplasmic aggregates in age-related neurodegenerative diseases. Here we found that RNA-binding deficient TDP-43 (produced by neurodegeneration-causing mutations or post-translational acetylation in its RNA recognition motifs) drove TDP-43 de-mixing into intranuclear liquid spherical shells with liquid cores. We named these droplets anisosomes, whose shells exhibited birefringence, evidence of liquid crystal formation. Guided by mathematical modeling, we identified the major components of the liquid core to be HSP70 family chaperones, whose ATP-dependent activity maintained the liquidity of shells and cores. In vivo proteasome inhibition within neurons, to mimic aging-related reduction of proteasome activity, induced TDP-43-containing spherical shells. These structures converted into aggregates when ATP levels were reduced. Thus, acetylation, HSP70, and proteasome activities regulate TDP-43 phase separation and conversion into a gel/solid phase.

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