The function of RNA-binding proteins at the synapse: implications for neurodegeneration

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2015 Oct;72(19):3621-35. doi: 10.1007/s00018-015-1943-x. Epub 2015 Jun 6.


The loss of synapses is a central event in neurodegenerative diseases. Synaptic proteins are often associated with disease neuropathology, but their role in synaptic loss is not fully understood. Of the many processes involved in sustaining the integrity of synapses, local protein translation can directly impact synaptic formation, communication, and maintenance. RNA-binding proteins and their association with RNA granules serve to regulate mRNA transportation and translation at synapses and in turn regulate the synapse. Genetic mutations in RNA-binding proteins FUS and TDP-43 have been linked with causing neurodegenerative diseases: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia. The observation that mutations in FUS and TDP-43 coincide with changes in RNA granules provides evidence that dysfunction of RNA metabolism may underlie the mechanism of synaptic loss in these diseases. However, we do not know how mutations in RNA-binding proteins would affect RNA granule dynamics and local translation, or if these alterations would cause neurodegeneration. Further investigation into this area will lead to important insights into how disruption of RNA metabolism and local translation at synapses can cause neurodegenerative diseases.

Keywords: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; FUS; Frontotemporal dementia; Local translation; RNA granules; RNP granules; Stress granules; TDP-43.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / physiopathology*
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Synapses / metabolism*


  • RNA-Binding Proteins