The abnormal assembly of misfolded proteins into neurotoxic aggregates is the hallmark associated with neurodegenerative diseases. Herein, we establish a photocontrollable platform to trigger amyloidogenesis to recapitulate the pathogenesis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) by applying a chemically engineered probe as a "switch" in live cells. This probe is composed of an amyloidogenic peptide from TDP-43, a photolabile linker, a polycationic sequence both to mask amyloidogenicity and for cell penetration, and a fluorophore for visualization. The photocontrollable probe can self-assemble into a spherical vesicle but rapidly develops massive nanofibrils with amyloid properties upon photoactivation. The photoinduced in vitro fibrillization process is characterized by biophysical techniques. In cellular experiments, this cell-penetrable vesicle was retained in the cytoplasm, seeded the mislocalized endogenous TDP-43 into aggregates upon irradiation, and consequently initiated apoptosis. In addition, this photocontrollable vesicle interfered with nucleocytoplasmic protein transport and triggered cortical neuron degeneration. Our developed strategy provides in vitro and in vivo spatiotemporal control of neurotoxic fibrillar aggregate formation, which can be readily applied in the studies of protein misfolding, aggregation-induced protein mislocalization, and amyloid-induced pathogenesis in different diseases.
- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- nucleocytoplasmic transport
- photocontrollable probe