Humphrey J, et al. Nucleic Acids Res 2020.
Mutations in the RNA-binding protein FUS cause amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a devastating neurodegenerative disease. FUS plays a role in numerous aspects of RNA metabolism, including mRNA splicing. However, the impact of ALS-causative mutations on splicing has not been fully characterized, as most disease models have been based on overexpressing mutant FUS, which will alter RNA processing due to FUS autoregulation. We and others have recently created knockin models that overcome the
overexpression problem, and have generated high depth RNA-sequencing on FUS mutants in parallel to FUS knockout, allowing us to compare mutation-induced changes to genuine loss of function. We find that FUS-ALS mutations induce a widespread loss of function on expression and splicing. Specifically, we find that mutant FUS directly alters intron retention levels in RNA-binding proteins. Moreover, we identify an intron retention event in FUS itself that is associated with its autoregulation. Altered FUS levels have been linked to disease, and we show here that this novel autoregulation mechanism is altered by FUS mutations. Crucially, we also observe this phenomenon in other genetic forms of ALS, including those caused by TDP-43, VCP and SOD1 mutations, supporting the concept that multiple ALS genes interact in a regulatory network.