Figley MD, Bieri G, Kolaitis R-M, Taylor JP, Gitler AD

J Neurosci. 2014 Jun 11;34(24):8083-97


Mutations in the PFN1 gene encoding profilin 1 are a rare cause of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Profilin 1 is a well studied actin-binding protein but how PFN1 mutations cause ALS is unknown. The budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, has one PFN1 ortholog. We expressed the ALS-linked profilin 1 mutant proteins in yeast, demonstrating a loss of protein stability and failure to restore growth to profilin mutant cells, without exhibiting gain-of-function toxicity. This model provides for simple and rapid screening of novel ALS-linked PFN1 variants. To gain insight into potential novel roles for profilin 1, we performed an unbiased, genome-wide synthetic lethal screen with yeast cells lacking profilin(pfy1Δ). Unexpectedly, deletion of several stress granule and processing body genes, including pbp1Δ, were found to be synthetic lethal with pfy1Δ.Mutations in ATXN2, the human ortholog of PBP1, are a known ALS genetic risk factor and ataxin 2 is a stress granule component in mammalian cells. Given this genetic interaction and recent evidence linking stress granule dynamics to ALS pathogenesis, we hypothesized that profilin 1 might also associate with stress granules. Here we report that profilin 1 and related protein profilin 2 are novel stress granule-associated proteins in mouse primary cortical neurons and in human cell lines and that ALS-linked mutations in profilin 1 alter stress granule dynamics, providing further evidence for the potential role of stress granules in ALS pathogenesis.