• amyotrophic lateral sclerosis;
  • astrocytes;
  • Lcn2;
  • rats;
  • TAR DNA-binding protein 43

Mutation of Tar DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43) is linked to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Although astrocytes have important roles in neuron function and survival, their potential contribution to TDP-43 pathogenesis is unclear. Here, we created novel lines of transgenic rats that express a mutant form of human TDP-43 (M337V substitution) restricted to astrocytes. Selective expression of mutant TDP-43 in astrocytes caused a progressive loss of motor neurons and the denervation atrophy of skeletal muscles, resulting in progressive paralysis. The spinal cord of transgenic rats also exhibited a progressive depletion of the astroglial glutamate transporters GLT-1 and GLAST. Astrocytic expression of mutant TDP-43 led to activation of astrocytes and microglia, with an induction of the neurotoxic factor Lcn2 in reactive astrocytes that was independent of TDP-43 expression. These results indicate that mutant TDP-43 in astrocytes is sufficient to cause non-cell-autonomous death of motor neurons. This motor neuron death likely involves deficiency in neuroprotective genes and induction of neurotoxic genes in astrocytes.