Mutations in RAB18 have been shown to cause the heterogeneous autosomal recessive disorder Warburg Micro syndrome (WARBM). Individuals with WARBM present with a range of clinical symptoms, including ocular and neurological abnormalities. However, the underlying cellular and molecular pathogenesis of the disorder remains unclear, largely owing to the lack of any robust animal models that phenocopy both the ocular and neurological features of the disease. We report here the generation and characterisation of a novel Rab18-mutant mouse model of WARBM. Rab18-mutant mice are viable and fertile. They present with congenital nuclear cataracts and atonic pupils, recapitulating the characteristic ocular features that are associated with WARBM. Additionally, Rab18-mutant cells exhibit an increase in lipid droplet size following treatment with oleic acid. Lipid droplet abnormalities are a characteristic feature of cells taken from WARBM individuals, as well as cells taken from individuals with other neurodegenerative conditions. Neurological dysfunction is also apparent in Rab18-mutant mice, including progressive weakness of the hind limbs. We show that the neurological defects are, most likely, not caused by gross perturbations in synaptic vesicle recycling in the central or peripheral nervous system. Rather, loss of Rab18 is associated with widespread disruption of the neuronal cytoskeleton, including abnormal accumulations of neurofilament and microtubule proteins in synaptic terminals, and gross disorganisation of the cytoskeleton in peripheral nerves. Global proteomic profiling of peripheral nerves in Rab18-mutant mice reveals significant alterations in several core molecular pathways that regulate cytoskeletal dynamics in neurons. The apparent similarities between the WARBM phenotype and the phenotype that we describe here indicate that the Rab18-mutant mouse provides an important platform for investigation of the disease pathogenesis and therapeutic interventions.
- Warburg Micro syndrome