Synaptic proteomics reveal distinct molecular signatures of cognitive change and C9ORF72 repeat expansion in the human ALS cortex

Zsofia I. Laszlo, Nicole Hindley, Anna Sanchez Avila, Rachel A. Kline, Samantha L Eaton, Douglas J. Lamont, Colin Smith, Tara L. Spires-Jones, Thomas M. Wishart, Christopher M. Henstridge (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
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Increasing evidence suggests synaptic dysfunction is a central and possibly triggering factor in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Despite this, we still know very little about the molecular profile of an ALS synapse. To address this gap, we designed a synaptic proteomics experiment to perform an unbiased assessment of the synaptic proteome in the ALS brain. We isolated synaptoneurosomes from fresh-frozen post-mortem human cortex (11 controls and 18 ALS) and stratified the ALS group based on cognitive profile (Edinburgh Cognitive and Behavioural ALS Screen (ECAS score)) and presence of a C9ORF72 hexanucleotide repeat expansion (C9ORF72-RE). This allowed us to assess regional differences and the impact of phenotype and genotype on the synaptic proteome, using Tandem Mass Tagging-based proteomics. We identified over 6000 proteins in our synaptoneurosomes and using robust bioinformatics analysis we validated the strong enrichment of synapses. We found more than 30 ALS-associated proteins in synaptoneurosomes, including TDP-43, FUS, SOD1 and C9ORF72. We identified almost 500 proteins with altered expression levels in ALS, with region-specific changes highlighting proteins and pathways with intriguing links to neurophysiology and pathology. Stratifying the ALS cohort by cognitive status revealed almost 150 specific alterations in cognitively impaired ALS synaptic preparations. Stratifying by C9ORF72-RE status revealed 330 protein alterations in the C9ORF72-RE +ve group, with KEGG pathway analysis highlighting strong enrichment for postsynaptic dysfunction, related to glutamatergic receptor signalling. We have validated some of these changes by western blot and at a single synapse level using array tomography imaging. In summary, we have generated the first unbiased map of the human ALS synaptic proteome, revealing novel insight into this key compartment in ALS pathophysiology and highlighting the influence of cognitive decline and C9ORF72-RE on synaptic composition.

Original languageEnglish
Article number156
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalActa Neuropathologica Communications
Publication statusPublished - 29 Oct 2022


  • Humans
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis/pathology
  • C9orf72 Protein/genetics
  • DNA Repeat Expansion/genetics
  • Proteomics
  • Proteome/genetics
  • Cognition
  • Frontotemporal Dementia/genetics
  • ALS
  • C9ORF72
  • Synapse
  • FTD
  • Human brain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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