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FRET/FLIM studies on mutant SOD1 detoxification mechanisms in intact single cells
Mutant superoxide dismutase 1 (mtSOD1) causes dominantly inherited amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The mechanism for mtSOD1 toxicity remains unknown. Two main hypotheses are the impairment of proteasomal function and chaperone depletion by misfolded mtSOD1. Here, we employed FRET/FLIM and biosensor imaging to quantitatively localize ubiquitination as well as chaperone binding of mtSOD1 in single cells, and to assess their effect on proteasomal and protein folding activities. We found large differences in ubiquitination and chaperone interaction levels for wild-type (wt) SOD1 versus mtSOD1 in intact single cells. Moreover, SOD1 ubiquitination levels differ between proteasomal structures and cytoplasmic material. Hsp70 binding and ubiquitination of wild-type and mtSOD1 species are highly correlated, demonstrating the coupled upregulation of both cellular detoxification mechanisms upon mtSOD1 expression. Biosensor imaging in single cells revealed that mtSOD1 expression alters cellular protein folding activity but not proteasomal function in the neuronal cells examined. Our results provide the first cell-by-cell-analysis of SOD1 ubiquitination and chaperone interaction. Moreover, our study opens new methodological avenues for cell biological research on ALS.