BACKGROUND: Pathological Golgi fragmentation represents a constant pre-clinical feature of many neurodegenerative diseases including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) but its molecular mechanisms remain hitherto unclear.
RESULTS: Here, we show that the severe Golgi fragmentation in transgenic mutant SOD1(G85R) and SOD1(G93A) mouse motor neurons is associated with defective polymerization of Golgi-derived microtubules, loss of the COPI coat subunit β-COP, cytoplasmic dispersion of the Golgi tether GM130, strong accumulation of the ER-Golgi v-SNAREs GS15 and GS28 as well as tubular/vesicular Golgi fragmentation. Data mining, transcriptomic and protein analyses demonstrate that both SOD1 mutants cause early presymptomatic and rapidly progressive up-regulation of the microtubule-destabilizing proteins Stathmins 1 and 2. Remarkably, mutant SOD1-triggered Golgi fragmentation and Golgi SNARE accumulation are recapitulated by Stathmin 1/2 overexpression but completely rescued by Stathmin 1/2 knockdown or the microtubule-stabilizing drug Taxol.
CONCLUSIONS: We conclude that Stathmin-triggered microtubule destabilization mediates Golgi fragmentation in mutant SOD1-linked ALS and potentially also in related motor neuron diseases.