Author(s): Tang G, Yue Z, Talloczy Z, Hagemann T, Cho W,
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Abstract Glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) is the principle intermediate filament (IF) protein in astrocytes. Mutations in the GFAP gene lead to Alexander disease (AxD), a rare, fatal neurological disorder characterized by the presence of abnormal astrocytes that contain GFAP protein aggregates, termed Rosenthal fibers (RFs), and the loss of myelin. All GFAP mutations cause the same histopathological defect, i.e. RFs, though little is known how the mutations affect protein accumulation as well as astrocyte function. In this study, we found that GFAP accumulation induces macroautophagy, a key clearance mechanism for prevention of aggregated proteins. This autophagic response is negatively regulated by mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). The activation of p38 MAPK by GFAP accumulation is in part responsible for the down-regulation of phosphorylated-mTOR and the subsequent activation of autophagy. Our study suggests that AxD mutant GFAP accumulation stimulates autophagy, in a manner regulated by p38 MAPK and mTOR signaling pathways. Autophagy, in turn, serves as a mechanism to reduce GFAP levels.
This article was published in Hum Mol Genet
and referenced in Journal of Genetic Syndromes & Gene Therapy