Microsatellite expansion disorders are pathologically characterized by RNA foci formation and repeat-associated non-AUG (RAN) translation. However, their underlying pathomechanisms and regulation of RAN translation remain unknown. We report that expression of expanded UGGAA (UGGAAexp) repeats, responsible for spinocerebellar ataxia type 31 (SCA31) in Drosophila, causes neurodegeneration accompanied by accumulation of UGGAAexp RNA foci and translation of repeat-associated pentapeptide repeat (PPR) proteins, consistent with observations in SCA31 patient brains. We revealed that motor-neuron disease (MND)-linked RNA-binding proteins (RBPs), TDP-43, FUS, and hnRNPA2B1, bind to and induce structural alteration of UGGAAexp. These RBPs suppress UGGAAexp-mediated toxicity in Drosophila by functioning as RNA chaperones for proper UGGAAexp folding and regulation of PPR translation. Furthermore, nontoxic short UGGAA repeat RNA suppressed mutated RBP aggregation and toxicity in MND Drosophila models. Thus, functional crosstalk of the RNA/RBP network regulates their own quality and balance, suggesting convergence of pathomechanisms in microsatellite expansion disorders and RBP proteinopathies.
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