VCP suppresses proteopathic seeding in neurons

Jiang Zhu, Sara Pittman, Dhruva Dhavale, Rachel French, Jessica N. Patterson, Mohamed Salman Kaleelurrrahuman, Yuanzi Sun, Jaime Vaquer-Alicea, Gianna Maggiore, Christoph S. Clemen, William J. Buscher, Jan Bieschke, Paul Kotzbauer, Yuna Ayala, Marc I. Diamond, Albert A. Davis, Conrad Weihl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: Neuronal uptake and subsequent spread of proteopathic seeds, such as αS (alpha-synuclein), Tau, and TDP-43, contribute to neurodegeneration. The cellular machinery participating in this process is poorly understood. One proteinopathy called multisystem proteinopathy (MSP) is associated with dominant mutations in Valosin Containing Protein (VCP). MSP patients have muscle and neuronal degeneration characterized by aggregate pathology that can include αS, Tau and TDP-43. Methods: We performed a fluorescent cell sorting based genome-wide CRISPR-Cas9 screen in αS biosensors. αS and TDP-43 seeding activity under varied conditions was assessed using FRET/Flow biosensor cells or immunofluorescence for phosphorylated αS or TDP-43 in primary cultured neurons. We analyzed in vivo seeding activity by immunostaining for phosphorylated αS following intrastriatal injection of αS seeds in control or VCP disease mutation carrying mice. Results: One hundred fifty-four genes were identified as suppressors of αS seeding. One suppressor, VCP when chemically or genetically inhibited increased αS seeding in cells and neurons. This was not due to an increase in αS uptake or αS protein levels. MSP-VCP mutation expression increased αS seeding in cells and neurons. Intrastriatal injection of αS preformed fibrils (PFF) into VCP-MSP mutation carrying mice increased phospho αS expression as compared to control mice. Cells stably expressing fluorescently tagged TDP-43 C-terminal fragment FRET pairs (TDP-43 biosensors) generate FRET when seeded with TDP-43 PFF but not monomeric TDP-43. VCP inhibition or MSP-VCP mutant expression increases TDP-43 seeding in TDP-43 biosensors. Similarly, treatment of neurons with TDP-43 PFFs generates high molecular weight insoluble phosphorylated TDP-43 after 5 days. This TDP-43 seed dependent increase in phosphorlyated TDP-43 is further augmented in MSP-VCP mutant expressing neurons. Conclusion: Using an unbiased screen, we identified the multifunctional AAA ATPase VCP as a suppressor of αS and TDP-43 aggregate seeding in cells and neurons. VCP facilitates the clearance of damaged lysosomes via lysophagy. We propose that VCP’s surveillance of permeabilized endosomes may protect against the proteopathic spread of pathogenic protein aggregates. The spread of distinct aggregate species may dictate the pleiotropic phenotypes and pathologies in VCP associated MSP.

Original languageEnglish
Article number30
JournalMolecular neurodegeneration
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Alpha-synuclein
  • CRISPR screen
  • Frontotemporal dementia
  • Seeding
  • TDP-43


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