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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Does a loss of TDP-43 function cause neurodegeneration?

Zuo-Shang Xu

Author Affiliations

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, 364 Plantation St, 817 LRB, Worcester, MA, 01605, USA

Molecular Neurodegeneration 2012, 7:27  doi:10.1186/1750-1326-7-27

Published: 14 June 2012

Abstract

In 2006, TAR-DNA binding protein 43 kDa (TDP-43) was discovered to be in the intracellular aggregates in the degenerating cells in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), two fatal neurodegenerative diseases [1,2]. ALS causes motor neuron degeneration leading to paralysis [3,4]. FTLD causes neuronal degeneration in the frontal and temporal cortices leading to personality changes and a loss of executive function [5]. The discovery triggered a flurry of research activity that led to the discovery of TDP-43 mutations in ALS patients and the widespread presence of TDP-43 aggregates in numerous neurodegenerative diseases. A key question regarding the role of TDP-43 is whether it causes neurotoxicity by a gain of function or a loss of function. The gain-of-function hypothesis has received much attention primarily based on the striking neurodegenerative phenotypes in numerous TDP-43-overexpression models. In this review, I will draw attention to the loss-of-function hypothesis, which postulates that mutant TDP-43 causes neurodegeneration by a loss of function, and in addition, by exerting a dominant-negative effect on the wild-type TDP-43 allele. Furthermore, I will discuss how a loss of function can cause neurodegeneration in patients where TDP-43 is not mutated, review the literature in model systems to discuss how the current data support the loss-of-function mechanism and highlight some key questions for testing this hypothesis in the future.