Loss of function of the enzyme β-hexosaminidase A (HexA) causes the lysosomal storage disorder Tay-Sachs disease (TSD). It has been proposed that mutations in the α chain of HexA can impair folding, enzyme assembly, and/or trafficking, yet there is surprisingly little known about the mechanisms of these potential routes of pathogenesis. We therefore investigated the biosynthesis and trafficking of TSD-associated HexA α mutants, seeking to identify relevant cellular quality control mechanisms. The α mutants E482K and G269S are defective in enzymatic activity, unprocessed by lysosomal proteases, and exhibit altered folding pathways compared with wild-type α. E482K is more severely misfolded than G269S, as observed by its aggregation and inability to associate with the HexA β chain. Importantly, both mutants are retrotranslocated from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to the cytosol and are degraded by the proteasome, indicating that they are cleared via ER-associated degradation (ERAD). Leveraging these discoveries, we observed that manipulating the cellular folding environment or ERAD pathways can alter the kinetics of mutant α degradation. Additionally, growth of patient fibroblasts at a permissive temperature or with chemical chaperones increases cellular Hex activity by improving mutant α folding. Therefore modulation of the ER quality control systems may be a potential therapeutic route for improving some forms of TSD.
© 2016 Dersh 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).