TDP-43 maximizes nerve conduction velocity by repressing a cryptic exon for paranodal junction assembly in Schwann cells.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.7554/elife.64456
TDP-43 is extensively studied in neurons in physiological and pathological contexts. However, emerging evidence indicates that glial cells are also reliant on TDP-43 function. We demonstrate that deletion of TDP-43 in Schwann cells results in a dramatic delay in peripheral nerve conduction causing significant motor deficits in mice, which is directly attributed to the absence of paranodal axoglial junctions. By contrast, paranodes in the central nervous system are unaltered in oligodendrocytes lacking TDP-43. Mechanistically, TDP-43 binds directly to Neurofascin mRNA, encoding the cell adhesion molecule essential for paranode assembly and maintenance. Loss of TDP-43 triggers the retention of a previously unidentified cryptic exon, which targets Neurofascin mRNA for nonsense-mediated decay. Thus, TDP-43 is required for neurofascin expression, proper assembly and maintenance of paranodes, and rapid saltatory conduction. Our findings provide a framework and mechanism for how Schwann cell-autonomous dysfunction in nerve conduction is directly caused by TDP-43 loss-of-function.