Astrocytic TDP-43 pathology in Alexander disease.
Alexander disease (AxD) is a rare neurodegenerative disorder characterized pathologically by the presence of eosinophilic inclusions known as Rosenthal fibers (RFs) within astrocytes, and is caused by dominant mutations in the coding region of the gene encoding glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP). GFAP is the major astrocytic intermediate filament, and in AxD patient brain tissue GFAP is a major component of RFs. TAR DNA binding protein of 43 kDa (TDP-43) is the major pathological protein in almost all cases of the neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and ∼50% of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), designated as FTLD-TDP. In ALS and FTLD-TDP, TDP-43 becomes insoluble, ubiquitinated, and pathologically phosphorylated and accumulates in cytoplasmic inclusions in both neurons and glia of affected brain and spinal cord regions. Previously, TDP-43 was detected in RFs of human pilocytic astrocytomas; however, involvement of TDP-43 in AxD has not been determined. Here we show that TDP-43 is present in RFs in AxD patient brains, and that insoluble phosphorylated full-length and high molecular weight TDP-43 accumulates in white matter of such brains. Phosphorylated TDP-43 also accumulates in the detergent-insoluble fraction from affected brain regions of Gfap(R236H/+) knock-in mice, which harbor a GFAP mutation homologous to one that causes AxD in humans, and TDP-43 colocalizes with astrocytic RF pathology in Gfap(R236H/+) mice and transgenic mice overexpressing human wild-type GFAP. These findings suggest common pathogenic mechanisms in ALS, FTLD, and AxD, and this is the first report of TDP-43 involvement in a neurological disorder primarily affecting astrocytes.