Relative stabilities of wild-type and mutant glial fibrillary acidic protein in patients with Alexander disease

Academic Article


  • Alexander disease (AxD) is an often fatal astrogliopathy caused by dominant gain-of-function missense mutations in the glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) gene. The mechanism by which the mutations produce the AxD phenotype is not known. However, the observation that features of AxD are displayed by mice that express elevated levels of GFAP from a human WT GFAP transgene has contributed to the notion that the mutations produce AxD by increasing accumulation of total GFAP above some toxic threshold rather than the mutant GFAP being inherently toxic. A possible mechanism for accumulation of GFAP in AxD patients is that the mutated GFAP variants are more stable than theWT,an attribution abetted by observations that GFAP complexes containing GFAP variants are more resistant to solvent extraction. Here we tested this hypothesis by determining the relative levels ofWTand mutantGFAPin three individuals with AxD, each of whom carried a common but different GFAP mutation (R79C, R239H, or R416W). Mass spectrometry analysis identified a peptide specific to the mutant or WT GFAP in each patient, and we quantified this peptide by comparing its signal to that of an added [15N]GFAP standard. In all three individuals, the level of mutant GFAP was less than that of the WT. This finding suggests that AxD onset is due to an intrinsic toxicity of the mutant GFAP instead of it acting indirectly by being more stable thanWTGFAP and thereby increasing the total GFAP level.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Heaven MR; Wilson L; Barnes S; Brenner M
  • Start Page

  • 15604
  • End Page

  • 15612
  • Volume

  • 294
  • Issue

  • 43