Tremor and Other Hyperkinetic Movements

Current Gaps in the Understanding of the Subcellular Distribution of Exogenous and Endogenous Protein TorsinA

N. Charles Harata


Background: An in‐frame deletion leading to the loss of a single glutamic acid residue in the protein torsinA (ΔE‐torsinA) results in an inherited movement disorder, DYT1 dystonia. This autosomal dominant disease affects the function of the brain without causing neurodegeneration, by a mechanism that remains unknown.

Methods: We evaluated the literature regarding the subcellular localization of torsinA.

Results: Efforts to elucidate the pathophysiological basis of DYT1 dystonia have relied partly on examining the subcellular distribution of the wild‐type and mutated proteins. A typical approach is to introduce the human torsinA gene (TOR1A) into host cells and overexpress the protein therein. In both neurons and non‐neuronal cells, exogenous wild‐type torsinA introduced in this manner has been found to localize mainly to the endoplasmic reticulum, whereas exogenous ΔE‐torsinA is predominantly in the nuclear envelope or cytoplasmic inclusions. Although these outcomes are relatively consistent, findings for the localization of endogenous torsinA have been variable, leaving its physiological distribution a matter of debate.

Discussion: As patients’ cells do not overexpress torsinA proteins, it is important to understand why the reported distributions of the endogenous proteins are inconsistent. We propose that careful optimization of experimental methods will be critical in addressing the causes of the differences among the distributions of endogenous (non‐overexpressed) vs. exogenously introduced (overexpressed) proteins.


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