Mutations in the RNA-binding protein FUS have been shown to cause the neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). We investigate whether mutant FUS protein in ALS patient-derived fibroblasts affects normal FUS functions in the nucleus. We investigated fibroblasts from two ALS patients possessing different FUS mutations and a normal control. Fibroblasts from these patients have their nuclear FUS protein trapped in SDS-resistant aggregates. Genome-wide analysis reveals an inappropriate accumulation of Ser-2 phosphorylation on RNA polymerase II (RNA Pol II) near the transcription start sites of 625 genes for ALS patient cells and after small interfering RNA (siRNA) knockdown of FUS in normal fibroblasts. Furthermore, both the presence of mutant FUS protein and siRNA knockdown of wild-type FUS correlate with altered distribution of RNA Pol II within fibroblast nuclei. A loss of FUS function in orchestrating Ser-2 phosphorylation of the CTD of RNA Pol II is detectable in ALS patient-derived fibroblasts expressing mutant FUS protein, even when the FUS protein remains largely nuclear. A likely explanation for this loss of function is the aggregation of FUS protein in nuclei. Thus our results suggest a specific mechanism by which mutant FUS can have biological consequences other than by the formation of cytoplasmic aggregates.
© 2014 Schwartz et al. This article is distributed by The American Society for Cell Biology under license from the author(s). Two months after publication it is available to the public under an Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0).