University of Massachusetts Medical School Faculty Publications


The FTD/ALS-associated RNA-binding protein TDP-43 regulates the robustness of neuronal specification through microRNA-9a in Drosophila

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Neurology

Publication Date


Document Type



Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis; Animals; Animals, Genetically Modified; DNA-Binding Proteins; Drosophila; Epistasis, Genetic; Female; Frontotemporal Dementia; *Gene Expression Regulation; Humans; Male; MicroRNAs; Mutation; Neurons; Phenotype; Sex Factors


Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience | Molecular Genetics


TDP-43 is an evolutionarily conserved RNA-binding protein currently under intense investigation for its involvement in the molecular pathogenesis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). TDP-43 is normally localized in the nucleus, but translocated to the cytoplasm in diseased neurons. The endogenous functions of TDP-43 in the nervous system remain poorly understood. Here, we show that the loss of Drosophila TDP-43 (dTDP-43) results in an increased production of sensory bristles and sensory organ precursor (SOP) cells on the notum of some but not all flies. The location of ectopic SOPs varies among mutant flies. The penetrance of this novel phenotype is dependent on the gender and sensitive to environmental influences. A similar SOP phenotype was also observed on the wing and in the embryos. Overexpression of dTDP-43 causes both loss and ectopic production of SOPs. Ectopic expression of ALS-associated mutant human TDP-43 (hTDP-43(M337V) and hTDP-43(Q331K)) produces a less severe SOP phenotype than hTDP-43(WT), indicating a partial loss of function of mutant hTDP-43. In dTDP-43 mutants, miR-9a expression is significantly reduced. Genetic interaction studies further support the notion that dTDP-43 acts through miR-9a to control the precision of SOP specification. These findings reveal a novel role for endogenous TDP-43 in neuronal specification and suggest that the FTD/ALS-associated RNA-binding protein TDP-43 functions to ensure the robustness of genetic control programs.

DOI of Published Version



Hum Mol Genet. 2013 Jan 15;22(2):218-25. doi: 10.1093/hmg/dds420. Link to article on publisher's site

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Human molecular genetics

PubMed ID