C9orf72 ALS/FTD dipeptide repeat protein levels are reduced by small molecules that inhibit PKA or enhance protein degradation

Nausicaa V. Licata, Riccardo Cristofani, Sally Salomonsson, Katherine M. Wilson, Liam Kempthorne, Deniz Vaizoglu, Vito G. D’Agostino, Daniele Pollini, Rosa Loffredo, Michael Pancher, Valentina Adami, Paola Bellosta, Antonia Ratti, Gabriella Viero, Alessandro Quattrone, Adrian M. Isaacs, Angelo Poletti, Alessandro Provenzani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Intronic GGGGCC (G4C2) hexanucleotide repeat expansion within the human C9orf72 gene represents the most common cause of familial forms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) (C9ALS/FTD). Repeat-associated non-AUG (RAN) translation of repeat-containing C9orf72 RNA results in the production of neurotoxic dipeptide-repeat proteins (DPRs). Here, we developed a high-throughput drug screen for the identification of positive and negative modulators of DPR levels. We found that HSP90 inhibitor geldanamycin and aldosterone antagonist spironolactone reduced DPR levels by promoting protein degradation via the proteasome and autophagy pathways respectively. Surprisingly, cAMP-elevating compounds boosting protein kinase A (PKA) activity increased DPR levels. Inhibition of PKA activity, by both pharmacological and genetic approaches, reduced DPR levels in cells and rescued pathological phenotypes in a Drosophila model of C9ALS/FTD. Moreover, knockdown of PKA-catalytic subunits correlated with reduced translation efficiency of DPRs, while the PKA inhibitor H89 reduced endogenous DPR levels in C9ALS/FTD patient-derived iPSC motor neurons. Together, our results suggest new and druggable pathways modulating DPR levels in C9ALS/FTD.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere105026
JournalEMBO Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 4 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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