Axon degeneration and Neuromuscular Junction (NMJ) disruption are key pathologies in the fatal neurodegenerative disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Despite accumulating evidence that axons and NMJs are impacted at a very early stage of the disease, current knowledge about the mechanisms leading to their degeneration remains elusive. Cytoplasmic mislocalization and accumulation of the protein TDP-43 are considered key pathological hallmarks of ALS, as they occur in ~ 97% of ALS patients, both sporadic and familial. Recent studies have identified pathological accumulation of TDP-43 in intramuscular nerves of muscle biopsies collected from pre-diagnosed, early symptomatic ALS patients. These findings suggest a gain of function for TDP-43 in axons, which might facilitate early NMJ disruption. In this review, we dissect the process leading to axonal TDP-43 accumulation and phosphorylation, discuss the known and hypothesized roles TDP-43 plays in healthy axons, and review possible mechanisms that connect TDP-43 pathology to the axon and NMJ degeneration in ALS.
- Local synthesis
- Motor neuron