Composition of the Intranuclear Inclusions of Fragile X-associated Tremor/Ataxia Syndrome

Lisa Ma, Anthony W. Herren, Glenda Espinal, Jamie Randol, Bridget McLaughlin, Veronica Martinez-Cerdeño, Isaac N. Pessah, Randi J. Hagerman, Paul J. Hagerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome (FXTAS) is a neurodegenerative disorder associated with a premutation repeat expansion (55-200 CGG repeats) in the 5' noncoding region of the FMR1 gene. Solitary intranuclear inclusions within FXTAS neurons and astrocytes constitute a hallmark of the disorder, yet our understanding of how and why these bodies form is limited. Here, we have discovered that FXTAS inclusions emit a distinct autofluorescence spectrum, which forms the basis of a novel, unbiased method for isolating FXTAS inclusions by preparative fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS). Using a combination of autofluorescence-based FACS and liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS)-based proteomics, we have identified more than two hundred proteins that are enriched within the inclusions relative to FXTAS whole nuclei. Whereas no single protein species dominates inclusion composition, highly enriched levels of conjugated small ubiquitin-related modifier 2 (SUMO 2) protein and p62/sequestosome-1 (p62/SQSTM1) protein were found within the inclusions. Many additional proteins involved with RNA binding, protein turnover, and DNA damage repair were enriched within inclusions relative to total nuclear protein. The current analysis has also allowed the first direct detection, through peptide sequencing, of endogenous FMRpolyG peptide, the product of repeat-associated non-ATG (RAN) translation of the FMR1 mRNA. However, this peptide was found only at extremely low levels and not within whole FXTAS nuclear preparations, raising the question whether endogenous RAN products exist at quantities sufficient to contribute to FXTAS pathogenesis. The abundance of the inclusion-associated ubiquitin- and SUMO-based modifiers supports a model for inclusion formation as the result of increased protein loads and elevated oxidative stress leading to maladaptive autophagy. These results highlight the need to further investigate FXTAS pathogenesis in the context of endogenous systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages1
JournalActa neuropathologica communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 3 2019


  • CGG repeat
  • FMRpolyG
  • Fragile X
  • inclusion
  • neurodegeneration
  • proteasome
  • proteomics
  • SUMO
  • ubiquitin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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