Age-Dependent TDP-43-Mediated Motor Neuron Degeneration Requires GSK3, hat-trick, and xmas-2
The RNA-processing protein TDP-43 is central to the pathogenesis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the most common adult-onset motor neuron (MN) disease [1-4]. TDP-43 is conserved in Drosophila, where it has been the topic of considerable study, but how TDP-43 mutations lead to age-dependent neurodegeneration is unclear and most approaches have not directly examined changes in MN morphology with age . We used a mosaic approach to study age-dependent MN loss in the adult fly leg where it is possible to resolve single motor axons, NMJs and active zones, and perform rapid forward genetic screens. We show that expression of TDP-43Q331K caused dying-back of NMJs and axons, which could not be suppressed by mutations that block Wallerian degeneration. We report the identification of three genes that suppress TDP-43 toxicity, including shaggy/GSK3, a known modifier of neurodegeneration . The two additional novel suppressors, hat-trick and xmas-2, function in chromatin modeling and RNA export, two processes recently implicated in human ALS [7, 8]. Loss of shaggy/GSK3, hat-trick, or xmas-2 does not suppress Wallerian degeneration, arguing TDP-43Q331K-induced and Wallerian degeneration are genetically distinct processes. In addition to delineating genetic factors that modify TDP-43 toxicity, these results establish the Drosophila adult leg as a valuable new tool for the in vivo study of adult MN phenotypes.