Adrian Israelson, Salah Abu-Hamad, Joy Kahn, Neta Shvil, Niv Papo, Stanislav Engel, Tom Shani, Jurgen Bernhagen, Victor Banerjee, Guy Zoltsman
Mutations in superoxide dismutase (SOD1) cause amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a fatal neurodegenerative disease caused by the progressive loss of motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord. It has been suggested that toxicity of mutant SOD1 results from its misfolding, however, it is yet unclear why misfolded SOD1 accumulates specifically within motor neurons. We recently demonstrated that macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF)—a multifunctional protein with cytokine/chemokine activity and cytosolic chaperone-like properties—inhibits the accumulation of misfolded SOD1. Here, we show that MIF inhibits mutant SOD1 nuclear clearance when overexpressed in motor neuron-like NSC-34 cells. In addition, MIF alters the typical SOD1 amyloid aggregation pathway in vitro, and, instead, promotes the formation of disordered aggregates, as measured by Thioflavin T (ThT) assay and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) imaging. Moreover, we report that MIF reduces the toxicity of misfolded SOD1 by directly interacting with it, and that the chaperone function and protective effect of MIF in neuronal cultures do not require its intrinsic catalytic activities. Importantly, we report that the locked-trimeric MIFN110C mutant, which exhibits strongly impaired CD74-mediated cytokine functions, has strong chaperone activity, dissociating, for the first time, these two cellular functions. Altogether, our study implicates MIF as a potential therapeutic candidate in the treatment of ALS.