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The molecular machinery responsible for cytosolic accumulation of misfolded TDP-43 in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) remains elusive. Here we identified a cullin-2 (CUL2) RING complex as a novel ubiquitin ligase for fragmented forms of TDP-43. The von Hippel Lindau protein (VHL), a substrate binding component of the complex, preferentially recognized misfolded TDP-43 at Glu246 in RNA-recognition motif 2. Recombinant full-length TDP-43 was structurally fragile and readily cleaved, suggesting that misfolded TDP-43 is cleared by VHL/CUL2 in a step-wise manner via fragmentation. Surprisingly, excess VHL stabilized and led to inclusion formation of TDP-43, as well as mutant SOD1, at the juxtanuclear protein quality control center. Moreover, TDP-43 knockdown elevated VHL expression in cultured cells, implying an aberrant interaction between VHL and mislocalized TDP-43 in ALS. Finally, cytoplasmic inclusions especially in oligodendrocytes in ALS spinal cords were immunoreactive to both phosphorylated TDP-43 and VHL. Thus, our results suggest that an imbalance in VHL and CUL2 may underlie oligodendrocyte dysfunction in ALS, and highlight CUL2 E3 ligase emerges as a novel therapeutic potential for ALS.


  • Scientific Reports

    Scientific Reports (6), 19118, 2016-01-11

    Springer Nature


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