Context-Dependent and Disease-Specific Diversity in Protein Interactions within Stress Granules

Cell. 2018 Jan 25;172(3):590-604.e13. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.12.032.


Stress granules (SGs) are transient ribonucleoprotein (RNP) aggregates that form during cellular stress and are increasingly implicated in human neurodegeneration. To study the proteome and compositional diversity of SGs in different cell types and in the context of neurodegeneration-linked mutations, we used ascorbate peroxidase (APEX) proximity labeling, mass spectrometry, and immunofluorescence to identify ∼150 previously unknown human SG components. A highly integrated, pre-existing SG protein interaction network in unstressed cells facilitates rapid coalescence into larger SGs. Approximately 20% of SG diversity is stress or cell-type dependent, with neuronal SGs displaying a particularly complex repertoire of proteins enriched in chaperones and autophagy factors. Strengthening the link between SGs and neurodegeneration, we demonstrate aberrant dynamics, composition, and subcellular distribution of SGs in cells from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients. Using three Drosophila ALS/FTD models, we identify SG-associated modifiers of neurotoxicity in vivo. Altogether, our results highlight SG proteins as central to understanding and ultimately targeting neurodegeneration.

Keywords: RNA-binding proteins; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; granules; heat shock; motor neuron disease; neurodegeneration; phase separation; ribonucleoprotein; stress.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cytoplasmic Granules / metabolism*
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • HEK293 Cells
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Protein Interaction Maps*
  • Protein Transport
  • Ribonucleoproteins / metabolism*
  • Stress, Physiological*


  • Ribonucleoproteins