Tsai YL, et al. Genes Dev 2020.
Dysregulation of the DNA/RNA-binding protein FUS causes certain subtypes of ALS/FTD by largely unknown mechanisms. Recent evidence has shown that FUS toxic gain of function due either to mutations or to increased expression can disrupt critical cellular processes, including mitochondrial functions. Here, we demonstrate that in human cells overexpressing wild-type FUS or expressing mutant derivatives, the protein associates with multiple mRNAs, and these are enriched in mRNAs encoding
mitochondrial respiratory chain components. Notably, this sequestration leads to reduced levels of the encoded proteins, which is sufficient to bring about disorganized mitochondrial networks, reduced aerobic respiration and increased reactive oxygen species. We further show that mutant FUS associates with mitochondria and with mRNAs encoded by the mitochondrial genome. Importantly, similar results were also observed in fibroblasts derived from ALS patients with FUS mutations. Finally, we demonstrate that FUS loss of function does not underlie the observed mitochondrial dysfunction, and also provides a mechanism for the preferential sequestration of the respiratory chain complex mRNAs by FUS that does not involve sequence-specific binding. Together, our data reveal that respiratory chain complex mRNA sequestration underlies the mitochondrial defects characteristic of ALS/FTD and contributes to the FUS toxic gain of function linked to this disease spectrum.