Transactive response DNA-binding protein-43 (TDP-43) is an RNA/DNA binding protein that forms phosphorylated and ubiquitinated aggregates in the cytoplasm of motor neurons in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which is a hallmark of this disease. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a neurodegenerative condition affecting the upper and lower motor neurons. Even though the aggregative property of TDP-43 is considered a cornerstone of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, there has been major controversy regarding the functional link between TDP-43 aggregates and cell death. In this review, we attempt to reconcile the current literature surrounding this debate by discussing the results and limitations of the published data relating TDP-43 aggregates to cytotoxicity, as well as therapeutic perspectives of TDP-43 aggregate clearance. We point out key data suggesting that the formation of TDP-43 aggregates and the capacity to self-template and propagate among cells as a 'prion-like' protein, another pathological property of TDP-43 aggregates, are a significant cause of motor neuronal death. We discuss the disparities among the various studies, particularly with respect to the type of models and the different forms of TDP-43 used to evaluate cellular toxicity. We also examine how these disparities can interfere with the interpretation of the results pertaining to a direct toxic effect of TDP-43 aggregates. Furthermore, we present perspectives for improving models in order to better uncover the toxic role of aggregated TDP-43. Finally, we review the recent studies on the enhancement of the cellular clearance mechanisms of autophagy, the ubiquitin proteasome system, and endocytosis in an attempt to counteract TDP-43 aggregation-induced toxicity. Altogether, the data available so far encourage us to suggest that the cytoplasmic aggregation of TDP-43 is key for the neurodegeneration observed in motor neurons in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The corresponding findings provide novel avenues toward early therapeutic interventions and clinical outcomes for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis management.
Keywords: ALS; TDP-43; aggregation; neurodegeneration; therapeutics.
© The Author(s) (2019). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Guarantors of Brain.