Pathological TDP-43 aggregation is characteristic of several neurodegenerative diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD-TDP); however, how TDP-43 aggregation and function are regulated remain poorly understood. Here, we show that O-GlcNAc transferase OGT-mediated O-GlcNAcylation of TDP-43 suppresses ALS-associated proteinopathies and promotes TDP-43’s splicing function. Biochemical and cell-based assays indicate that OGT’s catalytic activity suppresses TDP-43 aggregation and hyperphosphorylation, whereas abolishment of TDP-43 O-GlcNAcylation impairs its RNA splicing activity. We further show that TDP-43 mutations in the O-GlcNAcylation sites improve locomotion defects of larvae and adult flies and extend adult life spans, following TDP-43 overexpression in Drosophila motor neurons. We finally demonstrate that O-GlcNAcylation of TDP-43 promotes proper splicing of many mRNAs, including STMN2, which is required for normal axonal outgrowth and regeneration. Our findings suggest that O-GlcNAcylation might be a target for the treatment of TDP-43-linked pathogenesis.

Source: Zhao et al. EMBO Rep. (2021).