Spastin, the Protein Mutated in Autosomal Dominant Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia, Is Involved in Microtubule Dynamics

Hum Mol Genet. 2002 Jan 15;11(2):153-63. doi: 10.1093/hmg/11.2.153.


Hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP) is characterized by progressive weakness and spasticity of the lower limbs, caused by the specific degeneration of the corticospinal tracts, the longest axons in humans. Most cases of the autosomal dominant form of the disease are due to mutations in the SPG4 gene, which encodes spastin, an ATPase belonging to the AAA family. The cellular pathways in which spastin operates and its role in causing degeneration of motor axons are currently unknown. By expressing wild-type or ATPase-defective spastin in several cell types, we now show that spastin interacts dynamically with microtubules. Spastin association with the microtubule cytoskeleton is mediated by the N-terminal region of the protein, and is regulated through the ATPase activity of the AAA domain. Expression of all the missense mutations into the AAA domain, which were previously identified in patients, leads to constitutive binding to microtubules in transfected cells and induces the disappearance of the aster and the formation of thick perinuclear bundles, suggesting a role of spastin in microtubule dynamics. Consistently, wild-type spastin promotes microtubule disassembly in transfected cells. These data suggest that spastin may be involved in microtubule dynamics similarly to the highly homologous microtubule-severing protein, katanin. Impairment of fine regulation of the microtubule cytoskeleton in long axons, due to spastin mutations, may underlie pathogenesis of HSP.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphatases
  • Animals
  • COS Cells
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / physiology*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Microtubules / metabolism
  • Microtubules / physiology*
  • Mutation
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Spastic Paraplegia, Hereditary / genetics*
  • Spastic Paraplegia, Hereditary / pathology
  • Spastin


  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Adenosine Triphosphatases
  • Spastin
  • SPAST protein, human