, Volume 125, Issue 1, pp 121-131
Date: 03 Nov 2012

TDP-43 skeins show properties of amyloid in a subset of ALS cases

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Abstract

Aggregation of TDP-43 proteins to form intracellular inclusions is the primary pathology in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) with TDP-43 inclusions (FTLD-TDP). Histologically, in the cerebral cortex and limbic regions of affected ALS and FTLD-TDP patients, these pathologies occur as a variety of cytoplasmic, neuritic and intranuclear TDP-43 inclusions. In the spinal cord and lower brainstem of ALS patients, the lesions form cytoplasmic dashes or complex filamentous and spherical profiles in addition to skein-like inclusions (SLI). Ultrastructurally, the morphology of TDP-43 inclusions is heterogeneous but mainly composed of loose bundles of 10- to 20-nm-diameter straight filaments associated with electron-dense granular material. All of these TDP-43 inclusions are generally described as disordered amorphous aggregations unlike the amyloid fibrils that characterize protein accumulations in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. We here report that Thioflavin-S positive SLI are present in a subset of ALS cases, while TDP-43 inclusions outside the spinal cord lack the chemical properties of amyloid. Further, we examine the differential enrichment of fibrillar profiles in SLI of ALS cases by TDP-43 immuno-electron microscopy (immuno-EM). The demonstration that pathological TDP-43 can be amyloidogenic in situ suggests the following conclusions: (1) the conformational changes associated with TDP-43 aggregation are more complex than previously thought; (2) Thioflavin-S positive SLI may be composed primarily of filamentous ultrastructures.

J. L. Robinson, F. Geser and A. Stieber made equal contributions.