SETX (senataxin), the helicase mutated in AOA2 and ALS4, functions in autophagy regulation

Patricia Richard, Shuang Feng, Yueh Lin Tsai, Wencheng Li, Paola Rinchetti, Ubayed Muhith, Juan Irizarry-Cole, Katharine Stolz, Lionel A. Sanz, Stella Hartono, Mainul Hoque, Saba Tadesse, Hervé Seitz, Francesco Lotti, Michio Hirano, Frédéric Chédin, Bin Tian, James L. Manley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


SETX (senataxin) is an RNA/DNA helicase that has been implicated in transcriptional regulation and the DNA damage response through resolution of R-loop structures. Mutations in SETX result in either of two distinct neurodegenerative disorders. SETX dominant mutations result in a juvenile form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) called ALS4, whereas recessive mutations are responsible for ataxia called ataxia with oculomotor apraxia type 2 (AOA2). How mutations in the same protein can lead to different phenotypes is still unclear. To elucidate AOA2 disease mechanisms, we first examined gene expression changes following SETX depletion. We observed the effects on both transcription and RNA processing, but surprisingly observed decreased R-loop accumulation in SETX-depleted cells. Importantly, we discovered a strong connection between SETX and the macroautophagy/autophagy pathway, reflecting a direct effect on transcription of autophagy genes. We show that SETX depletion inhibits the progression of autophagy, leading to an accumulation of ubiquitinated proteins, decreased ability to clear protein aggregates, as well as mitochondrial defects. Analysis of AOA2 patient fibroblasts also revealed a perturbation of the autophagy pathway. Our work has thus identified a novel function for SETX in the regulation of autophagy, whose modulation may have a therapeutic impact for AOA2.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - 2020


  • AOA2
  • autophagy
  • DRIP
  • LC3
  • lysosomal degradation
  • R loop
  • R-loop
  • senataxin
  • SETX
  • transcription regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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