A VAPB mutant linked to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis generates a novel form of organized smooth endoplasmic reticulum

Elisa Fasana, Matteo Fossati, Annamaria Ruggiano, Silvia Brambillasca, Casper C. Hoogenraad, Francesca Navone, Maura Francolini, Nica Borgese

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


VAPB (vesicle-associated membrane protein-associated protein B) is an endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-resident tail-anchored adaptor protein involved in lipid transport. A dominantly inherited mutant, P56SVAPB, causes a familial form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and forms poorly characterized inclusion bodies in cultured cells. To provide a cell biological basis for the understanding of mutant VAPB pathogenicity, we investigated its biogenesis and the inclusions that it generates. Translocation assays in cell-free systems and in cultured mammalian cells were used to investigate P56S-VAPB membrane insertion, and the inclusions were characterized by confocal imaging and electron microscopy. We found that mutant VAPB inserts post-translationally into ER membranes in a manner indistinguishable from the wild-type protein but that it rapidly clusters to form inclusions that remain continuous with the rest of the ER. Inclusions were induced by the mutant also when it was expressed at levels comparable to the endogenous wild-type protein. Ultrastructural analysis revealed that the inclusions represent a novel form of organized smooth ER (OSER) consisting in a limited number of parallel cisternae (usually 2 or 3) interleaved by a ∼30 nm-thick electron-dense cytosolic layer. Our results demonstrate that the ALS-linked VAPB mutant causes dramatic ER restructuring that may underlie its pathogenicity in motoneurons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1419-1430
Number of pages12
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2010


  • Inclusion bodies
  • Neurodegenerative diseases
  • Post-translational insertion
  • Tail-anchored membrane proteins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Biotechnology
  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Medicine(all)


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