New human neural system identified NPTX2 as a potential therapeutic target in ALS/FTLD patients

The lab of Magdalini Polymenidou (University of Zurich) has just published a study in Nature, in which they describe a new model of human neural networks to study neurodegenerative diseases. Using this model, they were able to identify NPTX2, a new potential therapeutic target that is dysregulated in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar dementia (FTLD).

Human cellular models of neurodegeneration require reproducibility and longevity, which is necessary for simulating age-dependent diseases. Such systems are particularly needed for TDP-43 proteinopathies, which involve human-specific mechanisms that cannot be directly studied in animal models. Here, to explore the emergence and consequences of TDP-43 pathologies, we generated induced pluripotent stem cell-derived, colony morphology neural stem cells (iCoMoNSCs) via manual selection of neural precursors. Single-cell transcriptomics and comparison to independent neural stem cells showed that iCoMoNSCs are uniquely homogenous and self-renewing. Differentiated iCoMoNSCs formed a self-organized multicellular system consisting of synaptically connected and electrophysiologically active neurons, which matured into long-lived functional networks (which we designate iNets). Neuronal and glial maturation in iNets was similar to that of cortical organoids. Overexpression of wild-type TDP-43 in a minority of neurons within iNets led to progressive fragmentation and aggregation of the protein, resulting in a partial loss of function and neurotoxicity. Single-cell transcriptomics revealed a novel set of misregulated RNA targets in TDP-43-overexpressing neurons and in patients with TDP-43 proteinopathies exhibiting a loss of nuclear TDP-43. The strongest misregulated target encoded the synaptic protein NPTX2, the levels of which are controlled by TDP-43 binding on its 3? untranslated region. When NPTX2 was overexpressed in iNets, it exhibited neurotoxicity, whereas correcting NPTX2 misregulation partially rescued neurons from TDP-43-induced neurodegeneration. Notably, NPTX2 was consistently misaccumulated in neurons from patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP-43 pathology. Our work directly links TDP-43 misregulation and NPTX2 accumulation, thereby revealing a TDP-43-dependent pathway of neurotoxicity.

Read more in the News article of the University of Zurich 

Read the full publication in the Journal Nature (Open Access)

Website Polymenidou Lab

Abstract and figure from Hruska-Plochan et al. (2024) Nature published under a CC BY 4.0 license.