Proximity proteomics of C9orf72 dipeptide repeat proteins identifies molecular chaperones as modifiers of poly-GA aggregation

Feilin Liu, Dmytro Morderer, Melissa C. Wren, Sara A. Vettleson-Trutza, Yanzhe Wang, Benjamin E. Rabichow, Michelle R. Salemi, Brett S. Phinney, Björn Oskarsson, Dennis W. Dickson, Wilfried Rossoll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The most common inherited cause of two genetically and clinico-pathologically overlapping neurodegenerative diseases, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), is the presence of expanded GGGGCC intronic hexanucleotide repeats in the C9orf72 gene. Aside from haploinsufficiency and toxic RNA foci, another non-exclusive disease mechanism is the non-canonical translation of the repeat RNA into five different dipeptide repeat proteins (DPRs), which form neuronal inclusions in affected patient brains. While evidence from cellular and animal models supports a toxic gain-of-function of pathologic poly-GA, poly-GR, and poly-PR aggregates in promoting deposition of TDP-43 pathology and neurodegeneration in affected brain areas, the relative contribution of DPRs to the disease process in c9FTD/ALS patients remains unclear. Here we have used the proximity-dependent biotin identification (BioID) proximity proteomics approach to investigate the formation and collective composition of DPR aggregates using cellular models. While interactomes of arginine rich poly-GR and poly-PR aggregates overlapped and were enriched for nucleolar and ribosomal proteins, poly-GA aggregates demonstrated a distinct association with proteasomal components, molecular chaperones (HSPA1A/HSP70, HSPA8/HSC70, VCP/p97), co-chaperones (BAG3, DNAJA1A) and other factors that regulate protein folding and degradation (SQSTM1/p62, CALR, CHIP/STUB1). Experiments in cellular models of poly-GA pathology show that molecular chaperones and co-chaperones are sequestered to the periphery of dense cytoplasmic aggregates, causing depletion from their typical cellular localization. Their involvement in the pathologic process is confirmed in autopsy brain tissue, where HSPA8, BAG3, VCP, and its adapter protein UBXN6 show a close association with poly-GA aggregates in the frontal cortex, temporal cortex, and hippocampus of c9FTLD and c9ALS cases. The association of heat shock proteins and co-chaperones with poly-GA led us to investigate their potential role in reducing its aggregation. We identified HSP40 co-chaperones of the DNAJB family as potent modifiers that increased the solubility of poly-GA, highlighting a possible novel therapeutic avenue and a central role of molecular chaperones in the pathogenesis of human C9orf72-linked diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number22
JournalActa Neuropathologica Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • C9orf72
  • Heat shock proteins
  • Poly-GA
  • Proximity proteomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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