Structural insights into the multi-determinant aggregation of TDP-43 in motor neuron-like cells

F. Bozzo, I. Salvatori, F. Iacovelli, A. Mirra, S. Rossi, M. Cozzolino, M. Falconi, C. Valle, M. T. Carrì

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


TDP-43 is aggregated in patients with ALS and FLTD through mechanisms still incompletely understood. Since aggregation in the cytosol is most probably responsible for the delocalization and loss of proper RNA-binding function of TDP-43 in the nucleus, interception of the formation of aggregates may represent a useful therapeutic option. In this study, we investigated the relative importance of the N-terminal and C-terminal moieties of TDP-43 in the aggregation process and the weight of each of the six cysteine residues in determining unfolding and aggregation of the different domains. We report that cytoplasmic inclusions formed by WT and mutant TDP-43 in motor neuron-like NSC34 cells are redox-sensitive only in part, and contain at least two components, i.e. oligomers and large aggregates, that are made of different molecular species. The two N-terminal cysteine residues contribute to the seeding for the first step in oligomerization, which is then accomplished by mechanisms depending on the four cysteines in the RNA-recognition motifs. Cysteine-independent large aggregates contain unfolded isoforms of the protein, held together by unspecific hydrophobic interactions. Interestingly, truncated isoforms are entrapped exclusively in oligomers. Ab initio modeling of TDP-43 structure, molecular dynamics and molecular docking analysis indicate a differential accessibility of cysteine residues that contributes to aggregation propensity. We propose a model of TDP-43 aggregation involving cysteine-dependent and cysteine-independent stages that may constitute a starting point to devise strategies counteracting the formation of inclusions in TDP-43 proteinopathies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-72
Number of pages10
JournalNeurobiology of Disease
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2016


  • ALS
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Cysteine
  • Large aggregates
  • N-terminal domain
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Oligomers
  • Protein aggregation
  • TDP-43

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology


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