Motor neuron TDP-43 proteinopathy in progressive supranuclear palsy and corticobasal degeneration

Brain. 2022 Aug 27;145(8):2769-2784. doi: 10.1093/brain/awac091.


TDP-43 is mislocalized from the nucleus and aggregates within the cytoplasm of affected neurons in cases of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. TDP-43 pathology has also been found in brain tissues under non-amyotrophic lateral sclerosis conditions, suggesting mechanistic links between TDP-43-related amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and various neurological disorders. This study aimed to assess TDP-43 pathology in the spinal cord motor neurons of tauopathies. We examined 106 spinal cords from consecutively autopsied cases with progressive supranuclear palsy (n = 26), corticobasal degeneration (n = 12), globular glial tauopathy (n = 5), Alzheimer's disease (n = 21) or Pick's disease (n = 6) and neurologically healthy controls (n = 36). Ten of the progressive supranuclear palsy cases (38%) and seven of the corticobasal degeneration cases (58%) showed mislocalization and cytoplasmic aggregation of TDP-43 in spinal cord motor neurons, which was prominent in the cervical cord. TDP-43 aggregates were found to be skein-like, round-shaped, granular or dot-like and contained insoluble C-terminal fragments showing blotting pattern of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or frontotemporal lobar degeneration. The lower motor neurons also showed cystatin-C aggregates, although Bunina bodies were absent in haematoxylin-eosin staining. The spinal cord TDP-43 pathology was often associated with TDP-43 pathology of the primary motor cortex. Positive correlations were shown between the severities of TDP-43 and four-repeat (4R)-tau aggregates in the cervical cord. TDP-43 and 4R-tau aggregates burdens positively correlated with microglial burden in anterior horn. TDP-43 pathology of spinal cord motor neuron did not develop in an age-dependent manner and was not found in the Alzheimer's disease, Pick's disease, globular glial tauopathy and control groups. Next, we assessed SFPQ expression in spinal cord motor neurons; SFPQ is a recently identified regulator of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/frontotemporal lobar degeneration pathogenesis, and it is also reported that interaction between SFPQ and FUS regulates splicing of MAPT exon 10. Immunofluorescent and proximity-ligation assays revealed altered SFPQ/FUS-interactions in the neuronal nuclei of progressive supranuclear palsy, corticobasal degeneration and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-TDP cases but not in Alzheimer's disease, Pick's disease and globular glial tauopathy cases. Moreover, SFPQ expression was depleted in neurons containing TDP-43 or 4R-tau aggregates of progressive supranuclear palsy and corticobasal degeneration cases. Our results indicate that progressive supranuclear palsy and corticobasal degeneration may have properties of systematic motor neuron TDP-43 proteinopathy, suggesting mechanistic links with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-TDP. SFPQ dysfunction, arising from altered interaction with FUS, may be a candidate of the common pathway.

Keywords: SFPQ; TDP-43; corticobasal degeneration; microglia; progressive supranuclear palsy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis*
  • Corticobasal Degeneration*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Frontotemporal Dementia*
  • Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration*
  • Humans
  • Motor Neurons
  • Pick Disease of the Brain*
  • Supranuclear Palsy, Progressive*
  • TDP-43 Proteinopathies*
  • Tauopathies*
  • tau Proteins


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • tau Proteins