Atlastin is an integral membrane GTPase localized to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). In vitro and in vivo analyses indicate that atlastin is a membrane fusogen capable of driving membrane fusion, suggesting a role in ER structure and maintenance. Interestingly, mutations in the human atlastin-1 gene, SPG3A, cause a form of autosomal dominant hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP). The etiology of HSP is unclear, but two predominant forms of the disorder are caused by mutant proteins that affect ER structure, formation and maintenance in motor neurons. In this review, we describe the current knowledge about the molecular mechanism of atlastin function and its potential role in HSP. Greater understanding of the function of atlastin and associated proteins should provide important insight into normal ER biogenesis and maintenance, as well as the pathology of disease.
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