Dysregulated miRNA biogenesis downstream of cellular stress and ALS-causing mutations: a new mechanism for ALS

EMBO J. 2015 Nov 3;34(21):2633-51. doi: 10.15252/embj.201490493. Epub 2015 Sep 1.


Interest in RNA dysfunction in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) recently aroused upon discovering causative mutations in RNA-binding protein genes. Here, we show that extensive down-regulation of miRNA levels is a common molecular denominator for multiple forms of human ALS. We further demonstrate that pathogenic ALS-causing mutations are sufficient to inhibit miRNA biogenesis at the Dicing step. Abnormalities of the stress response are involved in the pathogenesis of neurodegeneration, including ALS. Accordingly, we describe a novel mechanism for modulating microRNA biogenesis under stress, involving stress granule formation and re-organization of DICER and AGO2 protein interactions with their partners. In line with this observation, enhancing DICER activity by a small molecule, enoxacin, is beneficial for neuromuscular function in two independent ALS mouse models. Characterizing miRNA biogenesis downstream of the stress response ties seemingly disparate pathways in neurodegeneration and further suggests that DICER and miRNAs affect neuronal integrity and are possible therapeutic targets.

Keywords: ALS; DICER; microRNA; neurodegeneration; stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / drug therapy
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / genetics*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / pathology
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Cytoplasmic Granules / metabolism
  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases / metabolism
  • Down-Regulation
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Enoxacin / pharmacology
  • Female
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • MicroRNAs / biosynthesis*
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • Motor Neurons / metabolism
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA Processing, Post-Transcriptional
  • Ribonuclease III / metabolism
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Superoxide Dismutase / genetics
  • Superoxide Dismutase-1


  • MicroRNAs
  • SOD1 protein, human
  • Enoxacin
  • Sod1 protein, mouse
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • Superoxide Dismutase-1
  • DICER1 protein, human
  • Ribonuclease III
  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases