Traffic jam at the nuclear pore: All roads lead to nucleocytoplasmic transport defects in ALS/FTD

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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal late-onset neurodegenerative disease that specifically affects the function and survival of spinal and cortical motor neurons. ALS shares many genetic, clinical, and pathological characteristics with frontotemporal dementia (FTD), and these diseases are now recognized as presentations of a disease spectrum known as ALS/FTD. The molecular determinants of neuronal loss in ALS/FTD are still debated, but the recent discovery of nucleocytoplasmic transport defects as a common denominator of most if not all forms of ALS/FTD has dramatically changed our understanding of the pathogenic mechanisms of this disease. Loss of nuclear pores and nucleoporin aggregation, altered nuclear morphology, and impaired nuclear transport are some of the most prominent features that have been identified using a variety of animal, cellular, and human models of disease. Here, we review the experimental evidence linking nucleocytoplasmic transport defects to the pathogenesis of ALS/FTD and propose a unifying view on how these defects may lead to a vicious cycle that eventually causes neuronal death.

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Neurobiology of Disease