The RNA-binding protein fused-in-sarcoma (FUS) has been associated with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), two neurodegenerative disorders that share similar clinical and pathological features. Both missense mutations and overexpression of wild-type FUS protein can be pathogenic in human patients. To study the molecular and cellular basis by which FUS mutations and overexpression cause disease, we generated novel transgenic mice globally expressing low levels of human wild-type protein (FUS(WT)) and a pathological mutation (FUS(R521G)). FUS(WT) and FUS(R521G) mice that develop severe motor deficits also show neuroinflammation, denervated neuromuscular junctions, and premature death, phenocopying the human diseases. A portion of FUS(R521G) mice escape early lethality; these escapers have modest motor impairments and altered sociability, which correspond with a reduction of dendritic arbors and mature spines. Remarkably, only FUS(R521G) mice show dendritic defects; FUS(WT) mice do not. Activation of metabotropic glutamate receptors 1/5 in neocortical slices and isolated synaptoneurosomes increases endogenous mouse FUS and FUS(WT) protein levels but decreases the FUS(R521G) protein, providing a potential biochemical basis for the dendritic spine differences between FUS(WT) and FUS(R521G) mice.