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Stress granules at the intersection of autophagy and ALS.


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive, fatal disease caused by loss of upper and lower motor neurons. The majority of ALS cases are classified as sporadic (80-90%), with the remaining considered familial based on patient history. The last decade has seen a surge in the identification of ALS-causing genes - including TARDBP (TDP-43), FUS, MATR3 (Matrin-3), C9ORF72 and several others - providing important insights into the molecular pathways involved in pathogenesis. Most of the protein products of ALS-linked genes fall into two functional categories: RNA-binding/homeostasis and protein-quality control (i.e. autophagy and proteasome). The RNA-binding proteins tend to be aggregation-prone with low-complexity domains similar to the prion-forming domains of yeast. Many also incorporate into stress granules (SGs), which are cytoplasmic ribonucleoprotein complexes that form in response to cellular stress. Mutant forms of TDP-43 and FUS perturb SG dynamics, lengthening their cytoplasmic persistence. Recent evidence suggests that SGs are regulated by the autophagy pathway, suggesting a unifying connection between many of the ALS-linked genes. Persistent SGs may give rise to intractable aggregates that disrupt neuronal homeostasis, thus failure to clear SGs by autophagic processes may promote ALS pathogenesis.