Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2011

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Gonzalez-Alegre, Pedro

First Committee Member

Benson, Christopher

Second Committee Member

Glenn, Kevin

Third Committee Member

Russo, Andrew

Fourth Committee Member

Strack, Stefan


DYT1 dystonia (DYT1) is a disabling inherited neurological disorder with juvenile onset. The genetic mutation in DYT1 leads to the deletion of a glutamic acid (E) residue in the protein torsinA. The function of torsinA and how the mutation leads to DYT1 is poorly understood. We hypothesize that how efficiently the disease-linked mutant protein is cleared may be critical for DYT1 pathogenesis. Therefore we explored mechanisms of torsinA catabolism, employing biochemical, cellular, and animal-based approaches. We asked if torsinA(wt) and torsinA(DE) are degraded preferentially through different catabolic mechanisms, specifically the ubiquitin proteasome pathway (UPP) and autophagy. We determined that torsinA(wt) is cleared by autophagy while torsinA(DE) is efficiently degraded by the UPP suggesting degradation processes can modulate torsinA(DE) levels. Proteins implicated in recognizing motifs on torsinA(DE) for targeting to the UPP represent candidate proteins that may modify DYT1 pathogenesis. We examined how removal of the hydrophobic domain and mutation of glycosylated asparagine residues on torsinA altered stability and catabolic mechanism. We found the glycosylation sites on torsinA are important for stability modulate its degradation through the UPP. F-box G-domain protein 1 (FBG1) has been implicated in degradation of glycosylated ER proteins. We hypothesized that FBG1 would promote torsinA degradation and demonstrated that FBG1 modulates levels of torsinA in a non-canonical manner through the UPP and autophagy. We examined if lack of FBG1 in a torsinA(DE) mouse model altered motor phenotypes. We saw no effect which suggests FBG1 does not alter DYT1 pathogenesis despite its promotion of torsinA(DE) degradation. In addition, we explored a potential mechanism for the previously described role of torsinA in modulating cytoplasmic protein aggregation. We hypothesized this endoplasmic reticulum (ER) resident protein would indirectly alter cytoplasmic protein aggregation through modulation of ER stress. We employed a poly-glutamine expanded repeat protein and pharmacological ER stressors to determine that torsinA does not alter poly-glutamine protein aggregation nor ER stress in a mammalian system. In summary, this thesis suggests proteins involved in the catabolism of torsinA(DE) may modify DYT1 pathogenesis and that torsinA and its DYT1-linked mutant are model proteins for investigating ER protein degradation by the UPP and autophagy.


autophagy, DYT1 dystonia, ERAD, FBG1, protein degradation, torsinA


ix, 134 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 121-134).


Copyright 2011 Kara Leigh Gordon