The FUS gene is dual-coding with both proteins contributing to FUS-mediated toxicity

EMBO Rep. 2021 Jan 7;22(1):e50640. doi: 10.15252/embr.202050640. Epub 2020 Nov 23.


Novel functional coding sequences (altORFs) are camouflaged within annotated ones (CDS) in a different reading frame. We show here that an altORF is nested in the FUS CDS, encoding a conserved 170 amino acid protein, altFUS. AltFUS is endogenously expressed in human tissues, notably in the motor cortex and motor neurons. Over-expression of wild-type FUS and/or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-linked FUS mutants is known to trigger toxic mechanisms in different models. These include inhibition of autophagy, loss of mitochondrial potential and accumulation of cytoplasmic aggregates. We find that altFUS, not FUS, is responsible for the inhibition of autophagy, and pivotal in mitochondrial potential loss and accumulation of cytoplasmic aggregates. Suppression of altFUS expression in a Drosophila model of FUS-related toxicity protects against neurodegeneration. Some mutations found in ALS patients are overlooked because of their synonymous effect on the FUS protein. Yet, we show they exert a deleterious effect causing missense mutations in the overlapping altFUS protein. These findings demonstrate that FUS is a bicistronic gene and suggests that both proteins, FUS and altFUS, cooperate in toxic mechanisms.

Keywords: FUS; alternative ORF; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; dual coding; polycistronic.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis* / genetics
  • Animals
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Humans
  • Motor Neurons
  • Mutation
  • RNA-Binding Protein FUS* / genetics


  • FUS protein, human
  • RNA-Binding Protein FUS