Mis-spliced transcripts generate de novo proteins in TDP-43-related ALS/FTD

Sci Transl Med. 2024 Feb 14;16(734):eadg7162. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.adg7162. Epub 2024 Feb 14.


Functional loss of TDP-43, an RNA binding protein genetically and pathologically linked to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), leads to the inclusion of cryptic exons in hundreds of transcripts during disease. Cryptic exons can promote the degradation of affected transcripts, deleteriously altering cellular function through loss-of-function mechanisms. Here, we show that mRNA transcripts harboring cryptic exons generated de novo proteins in TDP-43-depleted human iPSC-derived neurons in vitro, and de novo peptides were found in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples from patients with ALS or FTD. Using coordinated transcriptomic and proteomic studies of TDP-43-depleted human iPSC-derived neurons, we identified 65 peptides that mapped to 12 cryptic exons. Cryptic exons identified in TDP-43-depleted human iPSC-derived neurons were predictive of cryptic exons expressed in postmortem brain tissue from patients with TDP-43 proteinopathy. These cryptic exons produced transcript variants that generated de novo proteins. We found that the inclusion of cryptic peptide sequences in proteins altered their interactions with other proteins, thereby likely altering their function. Last, we showed that 18 de novo peptides across 13 genes were present in CSF samples from patients with ALS/FTD spectrum disorders. The demonstration of cryptic exon translation suggests new mechanisms for ALS/FTD pathophysiology downstream of TDP-43 dysfunction and may provide a potential strategy to assay TDP-43 function in patient CSF.

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis* / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Frontotemporal Dementia* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Peptides
  • Proteomics


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Peptides
  • TARDBP protein, human