INTRODUCTION: A majority of familial frontotemporal lobar dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases are associated with a large repeat expansion in a non-coding region of the C9ORF72 gene. Currently, little is known about the normal function and the expression pattern of the C9ORF72 protein. The aims of this study were to characterize the expression pattern and cellular localization of the three reported mouse isoforms of C9orf72, over a developmental time-course in primary cultured cortical neurons and brain tissue from C57BL/6 mice. RESULTS: We demonstrated that the different isoforms of C9ORF72 at the mRNA and protein level undergo alterations in expression during development and into adulthood. Cellular fractionation and immunofluorescence demonstrated that levels of nuclear and cytoplasmic expression of isoforms changed significantly over the time course. Additionally, immunofluorescence studies showed C9ORF72 labeling as puncta throughout neurons, extending beyond the microtubule cytoskeleton into actin-rich structures such as filopodia and growth cones. Finally, synaptosome preparations demonstrated the presence of C9ORF72 isoform 1 in synaptic-rich fractions from adult mouse brain. CONCLUSION: In summary, the presence of C9ORF72 as puncta and within synaptic-rich fractions may indicate involvement at the synapse and differential expression of isoforms in nuclei and cytoplasm may suggest distinct roles for the isoforms. Determining the physiological role of C9ORF72 protein may help to determine the role it plays in disease.
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