C9ORF72 is a GDP/GTP exchange factor for Rab8 and Rab39 and regulates autophagy.

Small GTPases

PubMedID: 27494456

Corbier C, Sellier C. C9ORF72 is a GDP/GTP exchange factor for Rab8 and Rab39 and regulates autophagy. Small GTPases. 2016;0.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Frontotemporal Dementia (ALS-FTD) are devastating neurodegenerative disease affecting motoneurons from the spinal chord and neurons from the frontal and temporal cortex, respectively. The most common genetic cause for ALS-FTD is an expansion of GGGGCC repeats within the first intron of the C9ORF72 gene. However, little is known on the function of C9ORF72. Recently, other and we found that C9ORF72 forms a stable complex with the SMCR8 and WDR41 proteins. This complex acts as a GDP/GTP exchange factor for the small RAB GTPases Rab8a and Rab39b. Since Rab8 and Rab39 are involved in macroautophagy, we tested the role of C9ORF72 in this mechanism. Decrease expression of C9ORF72 in neuronal cultures leads to autophagy dysfunction characterized by accumulation of aggregates of p62/SQSTM1. However, loss of C9ORF72 expression does not cause major neuronal cell death, suggesting that a second stress may be required to promote cell toxicity. Intermediate size of polyglutamine repeats within Ataxin-2 (ATXN2) is an important genetic modifier of ALS-FTD. We found that decrease expression of C9ORF72 synergizes the toxicity and aggregation of ATXN2 with intermediate size of polyglutamine (30Q). Overall, our data suggest that reduce expression of C9ORF72 causes suboptimal autophagy that sensitizes neurons to a second stress. These data suggest that reduce expression of C9ORF72 may partly contribute to ALS-FTD pathogenesis.