Reduced expression of the survival motor neuron (SMN) protein causes the neurodegenerative disease spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). Here, we show that adeno-associated virus serotype 9 (AAV9)-mediated delivery of Stasimon-a gene encoding an endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-resident transmembrane protein regulated by SMN-improves motor function in a mouse model of SMA through multiple mechanisms. In proprioceptive neurons, Stasimon overexpression prevents the loss of afferent synapses on motor neurons and enhances sensory-motor neurotransmission. In motor neurons, Stasimon suppresses neurodegeneration by reducing phosphorylation of the tumor suppressor p53. Moreover, Stasimon deficiency converges on SMA-related mechanisms of p53 upregulation to induce phosphorylation of p53 through activation of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), and pharmacological inhibition of this kinase prevents motor neuron death in SMA mice. These findings identify Stasimon dysfunction induced by SMN deficiency as an upstream driver of distinct cellular cascades that lead to synaptic loss and motor neuron degeneration, revealing a dual contribution of Stasimon to motor circuit pathology in SMA.
Keywords: SMN; Stasimon; Tmem41b; motor neurons; neurodegeneration; p38 MAPK; p53; proprioceptive neurons; spinal muscular atrophy.
Copyright © 2019 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.