Hereditary spastic paraplegias (HSPs) are characterized by progressive weakness and spasticity of the legs because of the degeneration of cortical motoneuron axons. SPG15 is a recessively inherited HSP variant caused by mutations in the ZFYVE26 gene and is additionally characterized by cerebellar ataxia, mental decline, and progressive thinning of the corpus callosum. ZFYVE26 encodes the FYVE domain-containing protein ZFYVE26/SPASTIZIN, which has been suggested to be associated with the newly discovered adaptor protein 5 (AP5) complex. We show that Zfyve26 is broadly expressed in neurons, associates with intracellular vesicles immunopositive for the early endosomal marker EEA1, and co-fractionates with a component of the AP5 complex. As the function of ZFYVE26 in neurons was largely unknown, we disrupted Zfyve26 in mice. Zfyve26 knockout mice do not show developmental defects but develop late-onset spastic paraplegia with cerebellar ataxia confirming that SPG15 is caused by ZFYVE26 deficiency. The morphological analysis reveals axon degeneration and progressive loss of both cortical motoneurons and Purkinje cells in the cerebellum. Importantly, neuron loss is preceded by accumulation of large intraneuronal deposits of membrane-surrounded material, which co-stains with the lysosomal marker Lamp1. A density gradient analysis of brain lysates shows an increase of Lamp1-positive membrane compartments with higher densities in Zfyve26 knockout mice. Increased levels of lysosomal enzymes in brains of aged knockout mice further support an alteration of the lysosomal compartment upon disruption of Zfyve26. We propose that SPG15 is caused by an endolysosomal membrane trafficking defect, which results in endolysosomal dysfunction. This appears to be particularly relevant in neurons with highly specialized neurites such as cortical motoneurons and Purkinje cells.
Hereditary spastic paraplegias (HSPs) are inherited disorders characterized by progressive weakness and spasticity of the legs. In HSP patients, nerve fibers connecting cortical motoneurons with spinal cord neurons are progressively lost. HSP subtype 15 (SPG15) is caused by mutations in ZFYVE26, and is characterized by additional cerebellar symptoms. We show that the Zfyve26 protein is broadly expressed in the brain. At the subcellular level Zfyve26 localizes to an intracellular compartment in the endocytic pathway from the plasma membrane to lysosomes, which is part of the degradative system of the cell. Closely resembling the human disease, mice deficient for Zfyve26 develop a progressive spastic gait disorder with cerebellar symptoms and degeneration of both neurons of the motor cortex and Purkinje cells in the cerebellum. Importantly, this degeneration is characterized by the intracellular accumulation of abnormal deposits, which stain positive for the lysosomal marker Lamp1. As Zfyve26 has been shown to interact with the newly identified adaptor complex AP5, which is supposed to be involved in cargo trafficking in the endolysosomal compartment, endolysosomal dysfunction may be caused by a targeting defect upon disruption of Zfyve26. As highly specialized neurons like cortical motoneurons and cerebellar Purkinje cells degenerate, these neurons appear to be particularly dependent on proper endolysosomal function.