Upper motor neurons are a target for gene therapy and UCHL1 is necessary and sufficient to improve cellular integrity of diseased upper motor neurons

Barış Genç, Javier H. Jara, Santana S. Sanchez, Amiko K.B. Lagrimas, Öge Gözütok, Nuran Koçak, Yongling Zhu, P. Hande Özdinler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

There are no effective cures for upper motor neuron (UMN) diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), primary lateral sclerosis, and hereditary spastic paraplegia. Here, we show UMN loss occurs independent of spinal motor neuron degeneration and that UMNs are indeed effective cellular targets for gene therapy, which offers a potential solution especially for UMN disease patients. UCHL1 (ubiquitin C-terminal hydrolase-L1) is a deubiquitinating enzyme crucial for maintaining free ubiquitin levels. Corticospinal motor neurons (CSMN, a.k.a UMNs in mice) show early, selective, and profound degeneration in Uchl1nm3419 (UCHL1−/−) mice, which lack all UCHL1 function. When UCHL1 activity is ablated only from spinal motor neurons, CSMN remained intact. However, restoring UCHL1 specifically in CSMN of UCHL1−/− mice via directed gene delivery was sufficient to improve CSMN integrity to the healthy control levels. In addition, when UCHL1 gene was delivered selectively to CSMN that are diseased due to misfolded SOD1 toxicity and TDP-43 pathology via AAV-mediated retrograde transduction, the disease causing misfolded SOD1 and mutant human TDP-43 were reduced in hSOD1G93A and prpTDP-43A315T models, respectively. Diseased CSMN retained their neuronal integrity and cytoarchitectural stability in two different mouse models that represent two distinct causes of neurodegeneration in ALS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)178-192
Number of pages15
JournalGene therapy
Volume29
Issue number3-4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics

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