Site-specific phosphorylation and caspase cleavage of GFAP are new markers of Alexander disease severity.


Alexander disease (AxD) is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder caused by mutations in glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), which supports the structural integrity of astrocytes. Over 70 GFAP missense mutations cause AxD, but the mechanism linking different mutations to disease-relevant phenotypes remains unknown. We used AxD patient brain tissue and induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived astrocytes to investigate the hypothesis that AxD-causing mutations perturb key post-translational modifications (PTMs) on GFAP. Our findings reveal selective phosphorylation of GFAP-Ser13 in patients who died young, independently of the mutation they carried. AxD iPSC-astrocytes accumulated pSer13-GFAP in cytoplasmic aggregates within deep nuclear invaginations, resembling the hallmark Rosenthal fibers observed in vivo. Ser13 phosphorylation facilitated GFAP aggregation and was associated with increased GFAP proteolysis by caspase-6. Furthermore, caspase-6 was selectively expressed in young AxD patients, and correlated with the presence of cleaved GFAP. We reveal a novel PTM signature linking different GFAP mutations in infantile AxD.





Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Battaglia, Rachel A, Adriana S Beltran, Samed Delic, Raluca Dumitru, Jasmine A Robinson, Parijat Kabiraj, Laura E Herring, Victoria J Madden, et al. (2019). Site-specific phosphorylation and caspase cleavage of GFAP are new markers of Alexander disease severity. eLife, 8. 10.7554/elife.47789 Retrieved from

This is constructed from limited available data and may be imprecise. To cite this article, please review & use the official citation provided by the journal.

Unless otherwise indicated, scholarly articles published by Duke faculty members are made available here with a CC-BY-NC (Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial) license, as enabled by the Duke Open Access Policy. If you wish to use the materials in ways not already permitted under CC-BY-NC, please consult the copyright owner. Other materials are made available here through the author’s grant of a non-exclusive license to make their work openly accessible.