Repeat expansion in the C9orf72 gene is the most common cause of the neurodegenerative disorder amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (C9-ALS) and is linked to the unconventional translation of five dipeptide-repeat polypeptides (DPRs). The two enriched in arginine, poly(GR) and poly(PR), infiltrate liquid-like nucleoli, co-localize with the nucleolar protein nucleophosmin (NPM1), and alter the phase separation behavior of NPM1 in vitro. Here, we show that poly(PR) DPRs bind tightly to a long acidic tract within the intrinsically disordered region of NPM1, altering its phase separation with nucleolar partners to the extreme of forming large, soluble complexes that cause droplet dissolution in vitro. In cells, poly(PR) DPRs disperse NPM1 from nucleoli and entrap rRNA in static condensates in a DPR-length-dependent manner. We propose that R-rich DPR toxicity involves disrupting the role of phase separation by NPM1 in organizing ribosomal proteins and RNAs within the nucleolus.
Keywords: ALS; C9orf72; DPR; RNA; dipeptide repeat; intrinsically disordered region; liquid-liquid phase separation; nucleolus; nucleophosmin; ribosome.
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