Nuclear import receptors, also called importins, mediate nuclear import of proteins and chaperone aggregation-prone cargoes (e.g., neurodegeneration-linked RNA-binding proteins [RBPs]) in the cytoplasm. Importins were identified as modulators of cellular toxicity elicited by arginine-rich dipeptide repeat proteins (DPRs), an aberrant protein species found in C9orf72-linked amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Mechanistically, the link between importins and arginine-rich DPRs remains unclear. Here, we show that arginine-rich DPRs (poly-GR and poly-PR) bind directly to multiple importins and, in excess, promote their insolubility and condensation. In cells, poly-GR impairs Impα/β-mediated nuclear import, including import of TDP-43, an RBP that aggregates in C9orf72-ALS/FTD patients. Arginine-rich DPRs promote phase separation and insolubility of TDP-43 in vitro and in cells, and this pathological interaction is suppressed by elevating importin concentrations. Our findings suggest that importins can decrease toxicity of arginine-rich DPRs by suppressing their pathological interactions.
Keywords: ALS; FTD; TDP-43; chaperone; dipeptide repeat proteins; importin; nneurodegeneration; nuclear import receptor; nuclear transport receptor; phase separation.
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