Mutations in the ALS2 gene, which encodes alsin, cause autosomal recessive juvenile-onset amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS2) and related conditions. Using both a novel monoclonal antibody and LacZ knock-in mice, we demonstrate that alsin is widely expressed in neurons of the CNS, including the cortex, brain stem and motor neurons of the spinal cord. Interestingly, the highest levels of alsin are found in the molecular layer of the cerebellum, a brain region not previously implicated in ALS2. During development, alsin is expressed by day E9.5, but CNS expression does not become predominant until early postnatal life. At the subcellular level, alsin is tightly associated with endosomal membranes and is likely to be part of a large protein complex that may include the actin cytoskeleton. ALS2 is present in primates, rodents, fish and flies, but not in the nematode worm or yeast, and is more highly conserved than expected among mammals. Additionally, the product of a second, widely expressed gene, ALS2 C-terminal like (ALS2CL), may subserve or modulate some of the functions of alsin as an activator of Rab and Rho GTPases.
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