The presence of proteinopathy, the accumulation of specific proteins as aggregates in neurons, is an emerging aspect of the pathology of schizophrenia and other major mental illnesses. Among the initial proteins implicated in forming such aggregates in these conditions is Trio and F-actin Binding Protein isoform 1 (TRIOBP-1), a ubiquitously expressed protein involved in the stabilization of the actin cytoskeleton. Here we investigate the insolubility of TRIOBP-1, as an indicator of aggregation, in brain samples from 25 schizophrenia patients, 25 major depressive disorder patients and 50 control individuals (anterior cingulate cortex, BA23). Strikingly, insoluble TRIOBP-1 is considerably more prevalent in both of these conditions than in controls, further implicating TRIOBP-1 aggregation in schizophrenia and indicating a role in major depressive disorder. These results were only seen using a high stringency insolubility assay (previously used to study DISC1 and other proteins), but not a lower stringency assay that would be expected to also detect functional, actin-bound TRIOBP-1. Previously, we have also determined that a region of 25 amino acids in the center of this protein is critical for its ability to form aggregates. Here we attempt to refine this further, through the expression of various truncated mutant TRIOBP-1 vectors in neuroblastoma cells and examining their aggregation. In this way, it was possible to narrow down the aggregation-critical region of TRIOBP-1 to just 8 amino acids (333-340 of the 652 amino acid-long TRIOBP-1). Surprisingly our results suggested that a second section of TRIOBP-1 is also capable of independently inducing aggregation: the optionally expressed 59 amino acids at the extreme N-terminus of the protein. As a result, the 597 amino acid long version of TRIOBP-1 (also referred to as "Tara" or "TAP68") has reduced potential to form aggregates. The presence of insoluble TRIOBP-1 in brain samples from patients, combined with insight into the mechanism of aggregation of TRIOBP-1 and generation of an aggregation-resistant mutant TRIOBP-1 that lacks both these regions, will be of significant use in further investigating the mechanism and consequences of TRIOBP-1 aggregation in major mental illness.
Keywords: TRIOBP-1; domain structure; major depressive disorder; protein aggregation; proteinopathy; schizophrenia.