Optogenetic TDP-43 nucleation induces persistent insoluble species and progressive motor dysfunction in vivo.
Abstract: TDP-43 is a predominantly nuclear DNA/RNA binding protein that is often mislocalized into insoluble cytoplasmic inclusions in post-mortem patient tissue in a variety of neurodegenerative disorders, most notably, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a fatal and progressive neuromuscular disorder. The underlying causes of TDP-43 proteinopathies remain unclear, but recent studies indicate the formation of these protein assemblies is driven by aberrant phase transitions of RNA deficient TDP-43. Technical limitations have prevented our ability to understand how TDP-43 proteinopathy relates to disease pathogenesis. Current animal models of TDP-43 proteinopathy often rely on overexpression of wild-type TDP-43 to non-physiological levels that may initiate neurotoxicity through nuclear gain of function mechanisms, or by the expression of disease-causing mutations found in only a fraction of ALS patients. New technologies allowing for light-responsive control of subcellular protein crowding provide a promising approach to drive intracellular protein aggregation, as we have previously demonstrated in vitro. Here we present a model for the optogenetic induction of TDP-43 aggregation in Drosophila that recapitulates key biochemical features seen in patient pathology, most notably light-inducible persistent insoluble species and progressive motor dysfunction. These data describe a photokinetic in vivo model that could be as a future platform to identify novel genetic and pharmacological modifiers of diseases associated with TDP-43 neuropathology.