The Seipin/BSCL2 gene was originally identified as a loss-of-function gene for congenital generalized lipodystrophy type 2 (CGL2), a condition characterized by severe lipoatrophy, insulin resistance, hypertriglyceridaemia and mental retardation. Recently, gain-of-toxic-function mutations (namely, mutations N88S and S90L) in the seipin gene have been identified in autosomal dominant motor neuron diseases such as Silver syndrome/spastic paraplegia 17 (SPG17) (OMIM #270685) and distal hereditary motor neuropathy type V (dHMN-V) (OMIM #182960). Detailed phenotypic analyses have revealed that upper motor neurons, lower motor neurons and peripheral motor axons are variously affected in patients with these mutations. The clinical spectrum for these mutations is broad, encompassing Silver syndrome, some variants of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease type 2, dHMNV and spastic paraplegia, even within a common pedigree. Therefore, we propose that seipin-related motor neuron diseases can be collectively referred to as 'seipinopathies'. Expression of the seipin protein can be detected in motor neurons in the spinal cord and white matter in the frontal lobe. This is consistent with the distribution of seipinopathies in the upper and lower motor neurons. Recent studies have shown that seipin, an endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-resident membrane protein, is an N-glycosylated protein that is proteolytically cleaved into N- and C-terminal fragments and is polyubiquitinated. Interestingly, the N88S and S90L mutations are in the N-glycosylation motif, and these mutations enhance ubiquitination and degradation of seipin by the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS). Furthermore, both mutations appear to result in proteins that are improperly folded, which leads to accumulation of the mutant protein in the ER. We have shown that expression of mutant forms of seipin in cultured cells activates the unfolded protein response (UPR) pathway and induces ER stress-mediated cell death. These findings suggest that seipinopathies are novel conformational diseases and that neurodegeneration in these diseases is tightly associated with ER stress, which has recently been reported to be associated with other neurodegenerative diseases. Further study of the pathological mechanisms of the mutant forms of seipin may lead to important new insights into motor neuron diseases, including other spastic paraplegia diseases and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas