Hereditary spastic paraplegia describes a diverse group of disorders characterized by progressive paraparesis primarily affecting lower limbs. In Troyer syndrome, an autosomal recessive form of hereditary spastic paraplegia, patients have dysarthria, distal amyotrophy, developmental delay and short stature in addition to spastic paraparesis. It is caused by a frameshift mutation (1110delA) in SPG20 leading to premature truncation of spartin, a protein with no known function. The objective of this study was to determine the subcellular localization of spartin and investigate the effect of the 1110delA mutation. We observed cytoplasmic expression of spartin in all transfected cell lines. Using superimposed organelle markers or immunocytochemistry staining, we established that spartin localizes to mitochondria and that this localization is dependent on sequences in the C-terminal region. Mutant spartin containing the 1110delA mutation has lost mitochondrial localization. Immunocytochemistry staining using anti-alpha-tubulin antibody provided evidence for partial co-localization of spartin with microtubules. Analysis of fluorescence resonance energy transfer indicated that sequences in the amino terminal are important in mediating microtubule interaction. This study provides the first evidence of spartin subcellular localization and identifies it as the third mitochondrial protein implicated in hereditary spastic paraplegia. Our results suggest that Troyer syndrome may be due to defective microtubule-mediated trafficking of mitochondria and/or mitochondrial dysfunction.
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