Glial cells have increasingly been implicated as active participants in the pathogenesis of neurological diseases, but critical pathways and mechanisms controlling glial function and secondary non-cell autonomous neuronal injury remain incompletely defined. Here we use models of Alexander disease, a severe brain disorder caused by gain-of-function mutations in GFAP, to demonstrate that misregulation of GFAP leads to activation of a mechanosensitive signaling cascade characterized by activation of the Hippo pathway and consequent increased expression of A-type lamin. Importantly, we use genetics to verify a functional role for dysregulated mechanotransduction signaling in promoting behavioral abnormalities and non-cell autonomous neurodegeneration. Further, we take cell biological and biophysical approaches to suggest that brain tissue stiffness is increased in Alexander disease. Our findings implicate altered mechanotransduction signaling as a key pathological cascade driving neuronal dysfunction and neurodegeneration in Alexander disease, and possibly also in other brain disorders characterized by gliosis.
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