Proximal spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a neurodegenerative disorder caused by deficiency of the ubiquitous Survival of Motor Neuron (SMN) protein. SMN has been shown to be transported in granules along the axon and moved through cytoskeletal elements. However, the role and nature of SMN granules are still not well characterized. Here, using immunocytochemical methods and time-lapse studies we show that SMN granules colocalize with the Golgi apparatus in motor neuron-like NSC34 cells. Electron microscopy clearly revealed that SMN granules are transported into the Golgi stack and aggregate in the trans-Golgi apparatus. SMN granules are characterized as either coated or un-coated and behave like regulated secretory granules. Treatment of cells with monensin to disrupt Golgi-mediated granule secretion decreased SMN expression in neurites and caused growth cone defects similar to those seen in SMN knockdown cells. Knockdown of Cop-α, the protein that coats vesicles transporting proteins between the Golgi compartments, caused SMN granule accumulation in the Golgi apparatus. In addition to the well-studied role of SMN in small nuclear ribonucleoprotein (SnRNP) assembly, this work links SMN granules with the Golgi network and thus sheds light on Golgi-mediated SMN granule transport.
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