Research ArticleAmyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Poly(GP) proteins are a useful pharmacodynamic marker for C9ORF72-associated amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science Translational Medicine  29 Mar 2017:
Vol. 9, Issue 383, eaai7866
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aai7866

Homing in on poly(GP) proteins

A mutation in the C9ORF72 gene causes amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) through the accumulation of G4C2 RNA. Therapeutics that target G4C2 RNA are thus being developed. Testing these therapeutics in patients with “c9ALS” will depend on finding a marker to monitor the effect of treatments on G4C2 RNA. Gendron et al. demonstrate that poly(GP) proteins produced from G4C2 RNA are present in cerebrospinal fluid from c9ALS patients. Furthermore, using patient cell models and a mouse model of c9ALS, they report that poly(GP) proteins correlate with G4C2 RNA, suggesting that poly(GP) could be used to test potential treatments for c9ALS in upcoming clinical trials.


There is no effective treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a devastating motor neuron disease. However, discovery of a G4C2 repeat expansion in the C9ORF72 gene as the most common genetic cause of ALS has opened up new avenues for therapeutic intervention for this form of ALS. G4C2 repeat expansion RNAs and proteins of repeating dipeptides synthesized from these transcripts are believed to play a key role in C9ORF72-associated ALS (c9ALS). Therapeutics that target G4C2 RNA, such as antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) and small molecules, are thus being actively investigated. A limitation in moving such treatments from bench to bedside is a lack of pharmacodynamic markers for use in clinical trials. We explored whether poly(GP) proteins translated from G4C2 RNA could serve such a purpose. Poly(GP) proteins were detected in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from c9ALS patients and, notably, from asymptomatic C9ORF72 mutation carriers. Moreover, CSF poly(GP) proteins remained relatively constant over time, boding well for their use in gauging biochemical responses to potential treatments. Treating c9ALS patient cells or a mouse model of c9ALS with ASOs that target G4C2 RNA resulted in decreased intracellular and extracellular poly(GP) proteins. This decrease paralleled reductions in G4C2 RNA and downstream G4C2 RNA–mediated events. These findings indicate that tracking poly(GP) proteins in CSF could provide a means to assess target engagement of G4C2 RNA–based therapies in symptomatic C9ORF72 repeat expansion carriers and presymptomatic individuals who are expected to benefit from early therapeutic intervention.

View Full Text

Stay Connected to Science Translational Medicine