Researchers find an ALS gene may be a hitchhiker’s guide to the neuron


Researchers discovered that annexin A11, a gene linked to a rare form of ALS, may play a critical role in the transport of RNA-encoded housekeeping instructions throughout neurons by hitching RNA granules onto traveling lysosomes and that disease-causing mutations prevent hitchhiking. Courtesy: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

ALS is a paralyzing and highly fatal disorder which does not have any effective treatments.

The neurodegenerative disorder affects at least 14,000 Americans.

A study by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke found the neuron annexin A11 was linked to a rare form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Researchers found annexin A11 plays a role in the process to manufacture proteins.

Manufacturing starts when DNA instructions are transcribed into RNAs, which are packaged as granules and transported out of the nucleus to other parts of the cell for assembly.

RNA in neurons may have to travel up to four feet and using advanced live cell microscopy researchers found out the RNA granules were “hitching” rides onto traveling lysosomes.

Until recently, lysosomes were thought to mainly clean up waste in cells. More recently, genetic studies have found that ALS is often caused by mutations in genes known to play roles in either RNA processing or the control of lysosomes.

They also found that disease-causing mutations in annexin A11 prevented this process.

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