The role of gigaxonin in the degradation of the glial-specific intermediate filament protein GFAP. Academic Article uri icon


  • Alexander disease (AxD) is a primary genetic disorder of astrocytes caused by dominant mutations in the gene encoding the intermediate filament (IF) protein GFAP. This disease is characterized by excessive accumulation of GFAP, known as Rosenthal fibers, within astrocytes. Abnormal GFAP aggregation also occurs in giant axon neuropathy (GAN), which is caused by recessive mutations in the gene encoding gigaxonin. Given that one of the functions of gigaxonin is to facilitate proteasomal degradation of several IF proteins, we sought to determine whether gigaxonin is involved in the degradation of GFAP. Using a lentiviral transduction system, we demonstrated that gigaxonin levels influence the degradation of GFAP in primary astrocytes and in cell lines that express this IF protein. Gigaxonin was similarly involved in the degradation of some but not all AxD-associated GFAP mutants. In addition, gigaxonin directly bound to GFAP, and inhibition of proteasome reversed the clearance of GFAP in cells achieved by overexpressing gigaxonin. These studies identify gigaxonin as an important factor that targets GFAP for degradation through the proteasome pathway. Our findings provide a critical foundation for future studies aimed at reducing or reversing pathological accumulation of GFAP as a potential therapeutic strategy for AxD and related diseases.

publication date

  • December 15, 2016