Small Molecule Targeting TDP-43's RNA Recognition Motifs Reduces Locomotor Defects in a Model of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

ACS Chem Biol 2019 09 27;14(9):2006-2013. Epub 2019 Aug 27.

Department of Pharmacology, College of Medicine , University of Arizona , Tucson , Arizona 85724 , United States.

RNA dysregulation likely contributes to disease pathogenesis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other neurodegenerative diseases. A pathological form of the transactive response (TAR) DNA binding protein (TDP-43) binds to RNA in stress granules and forms membraneless, amyloid-like TDP-43 aggregates in the cytoplasm of ALS motor neurons. In this study, we hypothesized that by targeting the RNA recognition motif (RRM) domains of TDP-43 that confer a pathogenic interaction between TDP-43 and RNA, motor neuron toxicity could be reduced. docking of 50000 compounds to the RRM domains of TDP-43 identified a small molecule (rTRD01) that (i) bound to TDP-43's RRM1 and RRM2 domains, (ii) partially disrupted TDP-43's interaction with the hexanucleotide RNA repeat of the disease-linked gene, but not with (UG) canonical binding sequence of TDP-43, and (iii) improved larval turning, an assay measuring neuromuscular coordination and strength, in an ALS fly model based on the overexpression of mutant TDP-43. Our findings provide an instructive example of a chemical biology approach pivoted to discover small molecules targeting RNA-protein interactions in neurodegenerative diseases.

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