Misfolded proteins accumulate and aggregate in neurodegenerative disease. The existence of these deposits reflects a derangement in the protein homeostasis machinery. Using a candidate gene screen, we report that loss of RAD-23 protects against the toxicity of proteins known to aggregate in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Loss of RAD-23 suppresses the locomotor deficit of Caenorhabditis elegans engineered to express mutTDP-43 or mutSOD1 and also protects against aging and proteotoxic insults. Knockdown of RAD-23 is further neuroprotective against the toxicity of SOD1 and TDP-43 expression in mammalian neurons. Biochemical investigation indicates that RAD-23 modifies mutTDP-43 and mutSOD1 abundance, solubility, and turnover in association with altering the ubiquitination status of these substrates. In human amyotrophic lateral sclerosis spinal cord, we find that RAD-23 abundance is increased and RAD-23 is mislocalized within motor neurons. We propose a novel pathophysiological function for RAD-23 in the stabilization of mutated proteins that cause neurodegeneration.
SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT In this work, we identify RAD-23, a component of the protein homeostasis network and nucleotide excision repair pathway, as a modifier of the toxicity of two disease-causing, misfolding-prone proteins, SOD1 and TDP-43. Reducing the abundance of RAD-23 accelerates the degradation of mutant SOD1 and TDP-43 and reduces the cellular content of the toxic species. The existence of endogenous proteins that act as “anti-chaperones” uncovers new and general targets for therapeutic intervention.