Lysosomes serve as a major site for the degradation of macromolecules and play a central role in the ability of cells to sense and respond to changes in intracellular nutrient availability. Conversely, levels of intracellular nutrients such as amino acids regulate lysosomal properties, including their biogenesis, acidification, signaling functions and subcellular position. Defining the molecular machinery that allows for this coordination of lysosome function with nutrient availability is critical for unraveling how lysosome homeostasis is maintained in health and disease. This project focuses on a heterotrimeric protein complex made up of C9orf72, SMCR8 and WDR41. Our interest in this protein complex stems from our discoveries that it is recruited to lysosomes upon amino acid deprivation and is required for both degradative functions of lysosomes as well as their ability to support activation of mTORC1 in response to acute exposure to amino acids. Our proposed research thus seeks to: 1) Elucidate the mechanisms whereby cells couple the sensing of changes in amino acid availability to the recruitment of C9orf72-SMCR8-WDR41 to lysosomes. 2) Define the direct lysosomal targets of C9orf72- SMCR8-WDR41. 3) Establish how this overall pathway is integrated into the maintenance of lysosome homeostasis. While our research focuses on using human cellular models to determine the essential lysosome-related functions of this protein complex, we anticipate that our findings will have broad relevance for understanding how cells respond to lysosome dysfunction in both normal physiology and disease. In particular, expansion of a hexanucleotide repeat in a non-coding region of the C9orf72 gene is the most common familial cause of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) identified to date. The current lack of understanding of C9orf72 protein function is a major obstacle to understanding the potential impact of reduced C9orf72 protein levels in the development of these neurodegenerative diseases. The results of our experiments are expected to yield direct targets of C9orf72 and will thereby provide a foundation for the evaluation of their dysregulation in the context of neurodegenerative disease. Beyond addressing specific questions about C9orf72 protein function and neurodegenerative disease, elucidation of fundamental mechanisms that match lysosome function to ongoing changes in cellular demand is of broad cell biological importance with potential relevance for multiple physiological and pathological contexts.

Public Health Relevance

This research will define a novel pathway centered around the C9orf72 protein that coordinates the signaling and degradative functions of lysosomes with changes in nutrient availability. The results of these efforts are expected to be of fundamental importance for the understanding of how lysosome function is matched to ongoing changes in cellular demand. While such control of lysosome homeostasis is of relevance to all cells, it may be particularly relevant in neurodegenerative diseases caused by mutations in the C9orf72 gene.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Research Project (R01)
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Membrane Biology and Protein Processing Study Section (MBPP)
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Maas, Stefan
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Yale University
Anatomy/Cell Biology
Schools of Medicine
New Haven
United States
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Puertollano, Rosa; Ferguson, Shawn M; Brugarolas, James et al. (2018) The complex relationship between TFEB transcription factor phosphorylation and subcellular localization. EMBO J 37:
Ferguson, Shawn M (2018) Axonal transport and maturation of lysosomes. Curr Opin Neurobiol 51:45-51
Meng, Jin; Ferguson, Shawn M (2018) GATOR1-dependent recruitment of FLCN-FNIP to lysosomes coordinates Rag GTPase heterodimer nucleotide status in response to amino acids. J Cell Biol 217:2765-2776
Nguyen, Andrew D; Nguyen, Thi A; Zhang, Jiasheng et al. (2018) Murine knockin model for progranulin-deficient frontotemporal dementia with nonsense-mediated mRNA decay. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 115:E2849-E2858
Amick, Joseph; Tharkeshwar, Arun Kumar; Amaya, Catherine et al. (2018) WDR41 supports lysosomal response to changes in amino acid availability. Mol Biol Cell 29:2213-2227
Ferguson, Shawn M (2018) Neuronal lysosomes. Neurosci Lett :
Gowrishankar, Swetha; Wu, Yumei; Ferguson, Shawn M (2017) Impaired JIP3-dependent axonal lysosome transport promotes amyloid plaque pathology. J Cell Biol 216:3291-3305
Amick, Joseph; Ferguson, Shawn M (2017) C9orf72: At the intersection of lysosome cell biology and neurodegenerative disease. Traffic 18:267-276
Amick, Joseph; Roczniak-Ferguson, Agnes; Ferguson, Shawn M (2016) C9orf72 binds SMCR8, localizes to lysosomes, and regulates mTORC1 signaling. Mol Biol Cell 27:3040-3051
Gray, Matthew A; Choy, Christopher H; Dayam, Roya M et al. (2016) Phagocytosis Enhances Lysosomal and Bactericidal Properties by Activating the Transcription Factor TFEB. Curr Biol 26:1955-1964

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