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1.  Inducible nitric oxide synthase is present in motor neuron mitochondria and Schwann cells and contributes to disease mechanisms in ALS mice 
Brain structure & function  2009;214(2-3):219-234.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease of motor neurons (MNs). The molecular pathogenesis of ALS is not understood, thus effective therapies for this disease are lacking. Some forms of ALS are inherited by mutations in the superoxide dismutase-1 (SOD1) gene. Transgenic mice expressing human Gly93 → Ala (G93A) mutant SOD1 (mSOD1) develop severe MN disease, oxidative and nitrative damage, and mitochondrial pathology that appears to involve nitric oxide-mediated mechanisms. We used G93A-mSOD1 mice to test the hypothesis that the degeneration of MNs is associated with an aberrant up-regulation of the inducible form of nitric oxide synthase (iNOS or NOS2) activity within MNs. Western blotting and immunoprecipitation showed that iNOS protein levels in mitochondrial-enriched membrane fractions of spinal cord are increased significantly in mSOD1 mice at pre-symptomatic stages of disease. The catalytic activity of iNOS was also increased significantly in mitochondrial-enriched membrane fractions of mSOD1 mouse spinal cord at pre-symptomatic stages of disease. Reverse transcription-PCR showed that iNOS mRNA was present in the spinal cord and brainstem MN regions in mice and was increased in pre-symptomatic and early symptomatic mice. Immunohistochemistry showed that iNOS immunoreactivty was up-regulated first in spinal cord and brainstem MNs in pre-symptomatic and early symptomatic mice and then later in the course of disease in numerous microglia and few astrocytes. iNOS accumulated in the mitochondria in mSOD1 mouse MNs. iNOS immunoreactivity was also up-regulated in Schwann cells of peripheral nerves and was enriched particularly at the paranodal regions of the nodes of Ranvier. Drug inhibitors of iNOS delayed disease onset and significantly extended the lifespan of G93A-mSOD1 mice. This work identifies two new potential early mechanisms for MN degeneration in mouse ALS involving iNOS at MN mitochondria and Schwann cells and suggests that therapies targeting iNOS might be beneficial in treating human ALS.
PMCID: PMC3010349  PMID: 19888600
Apoptosis-necrosis cell death continuum; Mitochondrial permeability transition pore; Mutant SOD1; Nitration; Node of Ranvier; Schwann cell
2.  Lithium Therapy Improves Neurological Function and Hippocampal Dendritic Arborization in a Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 1 Mouse Model 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(5):e182.
Spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 (SCA1) is a dominantly inherited neurodegenerative disorder characterized by progressive motor and cognitive dysfunction. Caused by an expanded polyglutamine tract in ataxin 1 (ATXN1), SCA1 pathogenesis involves a multifactorial process that likely begins with misfolding of ATXN1, which has functional consequences on its interactions, leading to transcriptional dysregulation. Because lithium has been shown to exert neuroprotective effects in a variety of conditions, possibly by affecting gene expression, we tested the efficacy of lithium treatment in a knock-in mouse model of SCA1 (Sca1154Q/2Q mice) that replicates many features of the human disease.
Methods and Findings
Sca1154Q/2Q mice and their wild-type littermates were fed either regular chow or chow that contained 0.2% lithium carbonate. Dietary lithium carbonate supplementation resulted in improvement of motor coordination, learning, and memory in Sca1154Q/2Q mice. Importantly, motor improvement was seen when treatment was initiated both presymptomatically and after symptom onset. Neuropathologically, lithium treatment attenuated the reduction of dendritic branching in mutant hippocampal pyramidal neurons. We also report that lithium treatment restored the levels of isoprenylcysteine carboxyl methyltransferase (Icmt; alternatively, Pccmt), down-regulation of which is an early marker of mutant ATXN1 toxicity.
The effect of lithium on a marker altered early in the course of SCA1 pathogenesis, coupled with its positive effect on multiple behavioral measures and hippocampal neuropathology in an authentic disease model, make it an excellent candidate treatment for human SCA1 patients.
Huda Zoghbi and colleagues show that lithium treatment initiated before or after disease onset improves multiple symptoms of neurodegeneration in a mouse model of spinocerebellar ataxia.
Editors' Summary
Spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 (SCA1) is an inherited, incurable neurodegenerative disease in which the neurons (cells that transmit information between the brain and body) in the cerebellum (the brain region that coordinates movement) gradually die. Symptoms of the disease, which usually begins in early adult life, include poor coordination of movement (ataxia), slurred speech, and cognitive (learning and memory) problems. As more neurons die, these symptoms get worse until breathing difficulties eventually cause death. SCA1 is a “triplet repeat disease.” Information for making proteins is stored in DNA as groups of three nucleotides (codons), each specifying a different amino acid (the building blocks of proteins). In triplet repeat diseases, patients inherit a mutant gene containing abnormally long stretches of repeated codons. In SCA1, the repeated codon is CAG, which specifies glutamine. Consequently, SCA1 is a “polyglutamine disease,” a group of neurodegenerative disorders in which an abnormal protein (a different one for each disease) containing a long stretch of glutamine forms nuclear inclusions (insoluble lumps of protein) in neurons that, possibly by trapping essential proteins, cause neuronal death. In SCA1, the abnormal protein is ataxin 1, which is made in many neurons including the cerebellar neurons (Purkinje cells) that coordinate movement.
Why Was This Study Done?
Early in SCA1, the production of several messenger RNAs (the templates for protein production) decreases, possibly because transcription factors (proteins that control gene expression) interact with the mutant protein. Could the progression of SCA1 be slowed, therefore, by using an agent that affects gene expression? In this study, the researchers have investigated whether lithium can slow disease progression in an animal model of SCA1. They chose lithium for their study because this drug (best known for stabilizing mood in people with bipolar [manic] depression) affects gene expression, is neuroprotective, and has beneficial effects in animal models of Huntington disease, another polyglutamine disease.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers bred mice carrying one mutant gene for ataxin 1 containing a very long CAG repeat and one normal gene (Sca1154Q/2Q mice; genes come in pairs). These mice develop symptoms similar to those seen in people with SCA1. After weaning, the mice and their normal littermates were fed normal food or food supplemented with lithium for several weeks before assessing their ability to coordinate their movements and testing their cognitive skills. Dietary lithium (given before or after symptoms appeared) improved both coordination and learning and memory in the Sca1154Q/2Q mice but had little effect in the normal mice. Lithium did not change the overall appearance of the cerebellum in the Sca1154Q/2Q mice nor reduce the occurrence of nuclear inclusions, but it did partly reverse hippocampal neuron degeneration in these animals. The researchers discovered this effect by examining the shape of the hippocampal neurons in detail. These neurons normally have extensive dendrites—branch-like projections that make contact with other cells—but these gradually disappear in Sca1154Q/2Q mice; lithium partly reversed this loss. Finally, lithium also restored the level of Icmt/Pccmt mRNA in the cerebellum to near normal in the Sca1154Q/2Q mice—this mRNA is one of the first to be reduced by ataxin 1 toxicity.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that treatment with lithium slows neurodegeneration in a mouse model of SCA1, even when it is given only after the first symptoms of the disease have appeared. Unfortunately, lithium did not improve the life span of the Sca1154Q/2Q mice (although this could be because the mutant SCA1 protein has some deleterious effects outside the brain). Thus, lithium is unlikely to cure SCA1, but it could provide some help to people with this devastating disease, even if (as is usual), their condition is not diagnosed until the disease is quite advanced. However, because drugs that work in animal models of diseases do not necessarily work in people, patients with SCA1 (or other polyglutamine diseases, which might also benefit from lithium supplementation) should not be treated with lithium until human trials of this approach have been completed.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Ataxia Foundation provides information for patients
International Network of Ataxia Friends has information for patients and carergivers on ataxias, including SCA1
GeneTests provides information for health care providers and researchers about SCA1
Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) has detailed scientific information on SCA1
Huntington's Outreach Project for Education offers information for lay people from Stanford University on trinucleotide repeat disorders including SCA1
PMCID: PMC1880853  PMID: 17535104
3.  Deletion of galectin-3 exacerbates microglial activation and accelerates disease progression and demise in a SOD1G93A mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 
Brain and Behavior  2012;2(5):563-575.
Galectins are pleiotropic carbohydrate-binding lectins involved in inflammation, growth/differentiation, and tissue remodeling. The functional role of galectins in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is unknown. Expression studies revealed increases in galectin-1 mRNA and protein in spinal cords from SOD1G93A mice, and in galectin-3 and -9 mRNAs and proteins in spinal cords of both SOD1G93A mice and sporadic ALS patients. As the increase in galectin-3 appeared in early presymptomatic stages and increased progressively through to end stage of disease in the mouse, it was selected for additional study, where it was found to be mainly expressed by microglia. Galectin-3 antagonists are not selective and do not readily cross the blood–brain barrier; therefore, we generated SOD1G93A/Gal-3−/− transgenic mice to evaluate galectin-3 deletion in a widely used mouse model of ALS. Disease progression, neurological symptoms, survival, and inflammation were assessed to determine the effect of galectin-3 deletion on the SOD1G93A disease phenotype. Galectin-3 deletion did not change disease onset, but resulted in more rapid progression through functionally defined disease stages, more severely impaired neurological symptoms at all stages of disease, and expiration, on average, 25 days earlier than SOD1G93A/Gal-3+/+ cohorts. In addition, microglial staining, as well as TNF-α, and oxidative injury were increased in SOD1G93A/Gal-3−/− mice compared with SOD1G93A/Gal-3+/+ cohorts. These data support an important functional role for microglial galectin-3 in neuroinflammation during chronic neurodegenerative disease. We suggest that elevations in galectin-3 by microglia as disease progresses may represent a protective, anti-inflammatory innate immune response to chronic motor neuron degeneration.
PMCID: PMC3489809  PMID: 23139902
Alternative activation; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; microglia; motor neuron disease; SOD1
4.  Mutant SOD1 in neuronal mitochondria causes toxicity and mitochondrial dynamics abnormalities 
Human Molecular Genetics  2009;18(23):4552-4564.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurological disorder characterized by motor neuron degeneration. Mutations in Cu,Zn-superoxide dismutase (SOD1) are responsible for 20% of familial ALS cases via a toxic gain of function. In mutant SOD1 transgenic mice, mitochondria of spinal motor neurons develop abnormal morphology, bioenergetic defects and degeneration, which are presumably implicated in disease pathogenesis. SOD1 is mostly a cytosolic protein, but a substantial portion is associated with organelles, including mitochondria, where it localizes predominantly in the intermembrane space (IMS). However, whether mitochondrial mutant SOD1 contributes to disease pathogenesis remains to be elucidated. We have generated NSC34 motor neuronal cell lines expressing wild-type or mutant SOD1 containing a cleavable IMS targeting signal to directly investigate the pathogenic role of mutant SOD1 in mitochondria. We show that mitochondrially-targeted SOD1 localizes to the IMS, where it is enzymatically active. We prove that mutant IMS-targeted SOD1 causes neuronal toxicity under metabolic and oxidative stress conditions. Furthermore, we demonstrate for the first time neurite mitochondrial fragmentation and impaired mitochondrial dynamics in motor neurons expressing IMS mutant SOD1. These defects are associated with impaired maintenance of neuritic processes. Our findings demonstrate that mutant SOD1 localized in the IMS is sufficient to determine mitochondrial abnormalities and neuronal toxicity, and contributes to ALS pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2773270  PMID: 19779023
5.  A Conserved Role for p48 Homologs in Protecting Dopaminergic Neurons from Oxidative Stress 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(10):e1004718.
Parkinson's disease (PD) is the most common neurodegenerative movement disorder characterized by the progressive loss of dopaminergic (DA) neurons. Both environmental and genetic factors are thought to contribute to the pathogenesis of PD. Although several genes linked to rare familial PD have been identified, endogenous risk factors for sporadic PD, which account for the majority of PD cases, remain largely unknown. Genome-wide association studies have identified many single nucleotide polymorphisms associated with sporadic PD in neurodevelopmental genes including the transcription factor p48/ptf1a. Here we investigate whether p48 plays a role in the survival of DA neurons in Drosophila melanogaster and Caenorhabditis elegans. We show that a Drosophila p48 homolog, 48-related-2 (Fer2), is expressed in and required for the development and survival of DA neurons in the protocerebral anterior medial (PAM) cluster. Loss of Fer2 expression in adulthood causes progressive PAM neuron degeneration in aging flies along with mitochondrial dysfunction and elevated reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, leading to the progressive locomotor deficits. The oxidative stress challenge upregulates Fer2 expression and exacerbates the PAM neuron degeneration in Fer2 loss-of-function mutants. hlh-13, the worm homolog of p48, is also expressed in DA neurons. Unlike the fly counterpart, hlh-13 loss-of-function does not impair development or survival of DA neurons under normal growth conditions. Yet, similar to Fer2, hlh-13 expression is upregulated upon an acute oxidative challenge and is required for the survival of DA neurons under oxidative stress in adult worms. Taken together, our results indicate that p48 homologs share a role in protecting DA neurons from oxidative stress and degeneration, and suggest that loss-of-function of p48 homologs in flies and worms provides novel tools to study gene-environmental interactions affecting DA neuron survival.
Author Summary
Parkinson's disease is a common movement disorder with no known cure. Its characteristic motor symptoms are primarily caused by the progressive loss of midbrain dopaminergic neurons. Although studies have shown that various environmental and genetic factors both contribute to the development of the disease, the underlying mechanisms remain unknown. Here we use powerful invertebrate model organisms, fruit flies and nematode worms, and identify a new gene required for the survival of dopaminergic neurons. We show that homologs of the p48/ptf1-a gene in both flies and worms are expressed in dopaminergic neurons and mutations in p48 increase the susceptibility of dopaminergic neuron death when animals are under oxidative stress. Importantly, genetic variations in p48 in humans have been detected in the sporadic Parkinson's disease patients, indicating the possibility that similar mechanism might play a role in the death of dopaminergic neurons in humans. Oxidative stress has been regarded as a major pathogenic factor for Parkinson's disease. Our results add evidence to the link between oxidative stress and neurodegeneration, and suggest that p48 mutant flies and worms can be used to study mechanisms of neurodegeneration in Parkinson's disease.
PMCID: PMC4207665  PMID: 25340742
6.  Extensive dysregulations of oligodendrocytic and astrocytic connexins are associated with disease progression in an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis mouse model 
Non-cell-autonomous motor neuronal death is suggested in a mutant Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase 1 (mSOD1)-mediated amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) model, in which glial cells play significant roles in disease progression. Connexins (Cxs) form homotypic or heterotypic gap junctions (GJs) and allow direct intercellular communications among nervous tissue cells. The role of Cxs in motor neuron disease has never been investigated; therefore, we aimed to evaluate alterations of Cxs in mSOD1-transgenic (mSOD1-Tg) mice in comparison with their non-transgenic (non-Tg) littermates at the same ages.
We pathologically evaluated temporal changes to astrocytic Cx43/Cx30 and oligodendrocytic Cx47/Cx32 immunoreactivities at presymptomatic, disease-progressive, and end stages, relative to aquaporin-4 (AQP4), glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), excitatory amino acid transporter-2 (EAAT2), myelin-oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG), and Nogo-A immunoreactivities, and observed neuronal loss by NeuN and neurofilament immunostaining, and microglial response by Iba-1 immunostaining. We also performed quantitative immunoblotting and real-time PCR analyses for Cxs.
The mSOD1-Tg mice showed neuronal and axonal loss in the anterior horns of the lumbar spinal cord accompanied by increased activation of microglia compared with non-Tg mice at the disease-progressive and end stages. Expression patterns of Cxs were not different between mSOD1-Tg and non-Tg mice at the presymptomatic stage, but immunoreactivities for GFAP, Cx43, Cx30 and AQP4 were increased in the anterior horns of mSOD1-Tg mice at the disease-progressive and end stages. By contrast, Cx47 and Cx32 immunoreactivities were markedly diminished in Nogo-A-positive oligodendrocytes in the anterior horns of mSOD1-Tg mice at the disease-progressive and end stages, especially in oligodendrocytes showing SOD1 accumulation. EAAT2 immunoreactivity was also diminished in the anterior horns of mSOD1-Tg mice at the disease-progressive and end stages. Quantitative immunoblotting revealed a significant reduction in Cx47 and Cx32 protein levels in mSOD1-Tg mice at the disease-progressive and end stages. The levels of Cx47 and Cx32 mRNAs were also decreased at these stages.
Our findings indicate that oligodendrocytic and astrocytic GJ proteins in the anterior horns of spinal cord in mSOD1-Tg mice are profoundly affected at the disease-progressive and end stages, where disruption of GJs among glial cells may exacerbate motor neuronal death.
PMCID: PMC4016493  PMID: 24597481
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; astrocyte; connexin; gap junction; oligodendrocyte; superoxide dismutase 1
7.  A mutation in the dynein heavy chain gene compensates for energy deficit of mutant SOD1 mice and increases potentially neuroprotective IGF-1 
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease characterized by a progressive loss of motor neurons. ALS patients, as well as animal models such as mice overexpressing mutant SOD1s, are characterized by increased energy expenditure. In mice, this hypermetabolism leads to energy deficit and precipitates motor neuron degeneration. Recent studies have shown that mutations in the gene encoding the dynein heavy chain protein are able to extend lifespan of mutant SOD1 mice. It remains unknown whether the protection offered by these dynein mutations relies on a compensation of energy metabolism defects.
SOD1(G93A) mice were crossbred with mice harboring the dynein mutant Cramping allele (Cra/+ mice). Dynein mutation increased adipose stores in compound transgenic mice through increasing carbohydrate oxidation and sparing lipids. Metabolic changes that occurred in double transgenic mice were accompanied by the normalization of the expression of key mRNAs in the white adipose tissue and liver. Furthermore, Dynein Cra mutation rescued decreased post-prandial plasma triglycerides and decreased non esterified fatty acids upon fasting. In SOD1(G93A) mice, the dynein Cra mutation led to increased expression of IGF-1 in the liver, increased systemic IGF-1 and, most importantly, to increased spinal IGF-1 levels that are potentially neuroprotective.
These findings suggest that the protection against SOD1(G93A) offered by the Cramping mutation in the dynein gene is, at least partially, mediated by a reversal in energy deficit and increased IGF-1 availability to motor neurons.
PMCID: PMC3111394  PMID: 21521523
8.  Motor neuron cell death in wobbler mutant mice follows overexpression of the G-protein-coupled, protease-activated receptor for thrombin. 
Molecular Medicine  2000;6(5):410-429.
BACKGROUND: Mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration are actively sought for new therapeutic strategies. Transgenic, knockout and genetic mouse models greatly aid our understanding of the mechanisms for neuronal cell death. A naturally occurring, autosomal recessive mutant, known as wobbler, and mice transgenic for familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (FALS) superoxide dismutase (SOD)1 mutations are available, but the molecular mechanisms remain equally unknown. Both phenotypes are detectable after birth. Wobbler is detectable in the third week of life, when homozygotes (wr/wr) exhibit prominent gliosis and significant motor neuron loss in the cervical, but not in lumbar, spinal cord segments. To address molecular mechanisms, we evaluated "death signals" associated with the multifunctional serine protease, thrombin, which leads to apoptotic motor neuronal cell death in culture by cleavage of a G-protein coupled, protease-activated receptor 1 (PAR-1). MATERIALS AND METHODS: Thrombin activities were determined with chromogenic substrate assays, Western immunoblots and immunohistochemistry were performed with anti-PAR-1 to observe localizations of the receptor and anti-GFAP staining was used to monitor astrocytosis. PAR-1 mRNA levels and locations were determined by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) and in situ hybridizations. Cell death was monitored with in situ DNA fragmentation assays. RESULTS: In preliminary studies we found a 5-fold increase in PAR-1 mRNA in cervical spinal cords from wr/wr, compared with wild-type (wt) littermates. Our current studies suggested that reactive astrocytosis and motor neuron cell death were causally linked with alterations in thrombin signaling. PAR-1 protein expression was increased, as demonstrated by immunocytochemistry and confirmed with in situ hybridization, in phenotypic wr/wr motor neurons, compared with wt, but not in astrocytes. This increase was much greater in cervical, compared with lumbar, segments, paralleling motor neuron degeneration. We also found, using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) with RNA from genotyped embryos, that PAR-1 was already increased in wr/wr cords at E12, the earliest time examined. CONCLUSIONS: Thus, motor neuron degeneration and death follows PAR-1 expression both temporally and topographically in wobbler mice. Since our culture studies show that thrombin mobilized [Ca2+]i by activating PAR-1, eventually leading to motor neuron apoptosis, up-regulation of PAR-1 during development may contribute both to "appropriate" as well as "inappropriate" neuronal death in wobbler.
PMCID: PMC1949954  PMID: 10952021
9.  Widespread aggregation of mutant VAPB associated with ALS does not cause motor neuron degeneration or modulate mutant SOD1 aggregation and toxicity in mice 
A proline-to-serine substitution at position-56 (P56S) of vesicle-associated membrane protein-associated protein B (VAPB) causes a form of dominantly inherited motor neuron disease (MND), including typical and atypical amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and a mild late-onset spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). VAPB is an integral endoplasmic reticulum (ER) protein and has been implicated in various cellular processes, including ER stress, the unfolded protein response (UPR) and Ca2+ homeostasis. However, it is unclear how the P56S mutation leads to neurodegeneration and muscle atrophy in patients. The formation of abnormal VAPB-positive inclusions by mutant VAPB suggests a possible toxic gain of function as an underlying mechanism. Furthermore, the amount of VAPB protein is reported to be reduced in sporadic ALS patients and mutant SOD1G93A mice, leading to the hypothesis that wild type VAPB plays a role in the pathogenesis of ALS without VAPB mutations.
To investigate the pathogenic mechanism in vivo, we generated human wild type (wtVAPB) and mutant VAPB (muVAPB) transgenic mice that expressed the transgenes broadly in the CNS. We observed robust VAPB-positive aggregates in the spinal cord of muVAPB transgenic mice. However, we failed to find an impairment of motor function and motor neuron degeneration. We also did not detect any change in the endogenous VAPB level or evidence for induction of the unfolded protein response (UPR) and coaggregation of VAPA with muVAPB. Furthermore, we crossed these VAPB transgenic mice with mice that express mutant SOD1G93A and develop motor neuron degeneration. Overexpression of neither wtVAPB nor muVAPB modulated the protein aggregation and disease progression in the SOD1G93A mice.
Overexpression of VAPBP56S mutant to approximately two-fold of the endogenous VAPB in mouse spinal cord produced abundant VAPB aggregates but was not sufficient to cause motor dysfunction or motor neuron degeneration. Furthermore, overexpression of either muVAPB or wtVAPB does not modulate the course of ALS in SOD1G93A mice. These results suggest that changes in wild type VAPB do not play a significant role in ALS cases that are not caused by VAPB mutations. Furthermore, these results suggest that muVAPB aggregates are innocuous and do not cause motor neuron degeneration by a gain-of-toxicity, and therefore, a loss of function may be the underlying mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3538568  PMID: 23281774
VAPB; ALS; Motor neuron disease; Neurodegeneration; Transgenic mice
10.  Deleterious effects of lymphocytes at the early stage of neurodegeneration in an animal model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 
Non-neuronal cells, such as microglia and lymphocytes, are thought to be involved in the pathogenesis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Previous studies have demonstrated neuroprotective effects of lymphocytes at the end stage of ALS, partly through induction of alternatively activated microglia (M2 microglia), which are neuroprotective. In this study, we investigated the role of lymphocytes in the early stage of the disease using an animal model of inherited ALS.
We established a transgenic mouse line overexpressing the familial ALS-associated G93A-SOD1 mutation (harboring a single amino acid substitution of glycine to alanine at codon 93) with depletion of the Rag2 gene (mSOD1/RAG2-/- mice), an animal model of inherited ALS lacking mature lymphocytes. Body weights, clinical scores and motor performance (hanging wire test) of mSOD1/RAG2-/- mice were compared to those of mutant human SOD1 transgenic mice (mSOD1/RAG2+/+ mice). Activation of glial cells in the spinal cords of these mice was determined immunohistochemically, and the expression of mRNA for various inflammatory and anti-inflammatory molecules was evaluated.
Clinical onset in mSOD1/RAG2-/- mice was significantly delayed, and the number of lectin-positive cells in spinal cord was increased at the early stage of disease when compared to mSOD1/RAG2+/+ mice. Quantitative RT-PCR confirmed that mRNA for Ym1, an M2 microglial-related molecule, was significantly increased in mSOD1/RAG2-/- mouse spinal cords at the early disease stage.
Compared with mSOD1/RAG2+/+ mice, mSOD1/RAG2-/- mice displayed delayed onset and increased M2 microglial activation at the early stage of disease. Thus, lymphocytes at the early pathological phase of ALS display a deleterious effect via inhibition of M2 microglial activation.
PMCID: PMC3048550  PMID: 21345177
11.  Disruption of Axonal Transport in Motor Neuron Diseases 
Motor neurons typically have very long axons, and fine-tuning axonal transport is crucial for their survival. The obstruction of axonal transport is gaining attention as a cause of neuronal dysfunction in a variety of neurodegenerative motor neuron diseases. Depletions in dynein and dynactin-1, motor molecules regulating axonal trafficking, disrupt axonal transport in flies, and mutations in their genes cause motor neuron degeneration in humans and rodents. Axonal transport defects are among the early molecular events leading to neurodegeneration in mouse models of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Gene expression profiles indicate that dynactin-1 mRNA is downregulated in degenerating spinal motor neurons of autopsied patients with sporadic ALS. Dynactin-1 mRNA is also reduced in the affected neurons of a mouse model of spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy, a motor neuron disease caused by triplet CAG repeat expansion in the gene encoding the androgen receptor. Pathogenic androgen receptor proteins also inhibit kinesin-1 microtubule-binding activity and disrupt anterograde axonal transport by activating c-Jun N-terminal kinase. Disruption of axonal transport also underlies the pathogenesis of spinal muscular atrophy and hereditary spastic paraplegias. These observations suggest that the impairment of axonal transport is a key event in the pathological processes of motor neuron degeneration and an important target of therapy development for motor neuron diseases.
PMCID: PMC3269748  PMID: 22312314
axonal transport; dynactin-1; dynein; kinesin; neurofilament; motor neuron; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy; spinal muscular atrophy; hereditary spastic paraplegia
12.  SOD1 targeted to the mitochondrial intermembrane space prevents motor neuropathy in the Sod1 knockout mouse 
Brain  2010;134(1):196-209.
Motor axon degeneration is a critical but poorly understood event leading to weakness and muscle atrophy in motor neuron diseases. Here, we investigated oxidative stress-mediated axonal degeneration in mice lacking the antioxidant enzyme, Cu,Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD1). We demonstrate a progressive motor axonopathy in these mice and show that Sod1−/− primary motor neurons extend short axons in vitro with reduced mitochondrial density. Sod1−/− neurons also show oxidation of mitochondrial—but not cytosolic—thioredoxin, suggesting that loss of SOD1 causes preferential oxidative stress in mitochondria, a primary source of superoxide in cells. SOD1 is widely regarded as the cytosolic isoform of superoxide dismutase, but is also found in the mitochondrial intermembrane space. The functional significance of SOD1 in the intermembrane space is unknown. We used a transgenic approach to express SOD1 exclusively in the intermembrane space and found that mitochondrial SOD1 is sufficient to prevent biochemical and morphological defects in the Sod1−/− model, and to rescue the motor phenotype of these mice when followed to 12 months of age. These results suggest that SOD1 in the mitochondrial intermembrane space is fundamental for motor axon maintenance, and implicate oxidative damage initiated at mitochondrial sites in the pathogenesis of motor axon degeneration.
PMCID: PMC3009841  PMID: 21078595
SOD; axon; neuromuscular junction; motor neuron disease; mitochondria
13.  The Effect of SOD1 Mutation on Cellular Bioenergetic Profile and Viability in Response to Oxidative Stress and Influence of Mutation-Type 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e68256.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the progressive degeneration of motor neurons. Substantial evidence implicates oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction as early events in disease progression. Our aim was to ascertain whether mutation of the SOD1 protein increases metabolic functional susceptibility to oxidative stress. Here we used a motor neuron-like cell line (NSC34) stably transfected with various human mutant SOD1 transgenes (G93A, G37R, H48Q) to investigate the impact of oxidative stress on cell viability and metabolic function within intact cells. NSC34 cells expressing mutant SOD1 showed a dose dependent reduction in cell viability when exposed to oxidative stress induced by hydrogen peroxide, with variation between mutations. The G93A transfectants showed greater cell death and LDH release compared to cells transfected with the other SOD1 mutations, and H48Q showed an accelerated decline at later time points. Differences in mitochondrial bioenergetics, including mitochondrial respiration, coupling efficiency and proton leak, were identified between the mutations, consistent with the differences observed in viability. NSC34 cells expressing G93A SOD1 displayed reduced coupled respiration and mitochondrial membrane potential compared to controls. Furthermore, the G93A mutation had significantly increased metabolic susceptibility to oxidative stress, with hydrogen peroxide increasing ROS production, reducing both cellular oxygen consumption and glycolytic flux in the cell. This study highlights bioenergetic defects within a cellular model of ALS and suggests that oxidative stress is not only detrimental to oxygen consumption but also glycolytic flux, which could lead to an energy deficit in the cell.
PMCID: PMC3695905  PMID: 23840839
14.  Intravenous Mesenchymal Stem Cells Improve Survival and Motor Function in Experimental Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis 
Molecular Medicine  2012;18(1):794-804.
Despite some advances in the understanding of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) pathogenesis, significant achievements in treating this disease are still lacking. Mesenchymal stromal (stem) cells (MSCs) have been shown to be effective in several models of neurological disease. To determine the effects of the intravenous injection of MSCs in an ALS mouse model during the symptomatic stage of disease, MSCs (1 × 106) were intravenously injected in mice expressing human superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) carrying the G93A mutation (SOD1/G93A) presenting with experimental ALS. Survival, motor abilities, histology, oxidative stress markers and [3H]d-aspartate release in the spinal cord were investigated. MSC injection in SOD1/G93A mice improved survival and motor functions compared with saline-injected controls. Injected MSCs scantly home to the central nervous system and poorly engraft. We observed a reduced accumulation of ubiquitin agglomerates and of activated astrocytes and microglia in the spinal cord of MSC-treated SOD1/G93A mice, with no changes in the number of choline acetyltransferase– and glutamate transporter type 1–positive cells. MSC administration turned around the upregulation of metallothionein mRNA expression and of the activity of the antioxidant enzyme glutathione S-transferase, both associated with disease progression. Last, we observed that MSCs reverted both spontaneous and stimulus-evoked neuronal release of [3H]d-aspartate, a marker of endogenous glutamate, which is upregulated in SOD1/G93A mice. These findings suggest that intravenous administration of MSCs significantly improves the clinical outcome and pathological scores of mutant SOD1/G93A mice, thus providing the rationale for their exploitation for the treatment of ALS.
PMCID: PMC3409288  PMID: 22481270
15.  The Mitochondrial Permeability Transition Pore in Motor Neurons: Involvement in the Pathobiology of ALS Mice 
Experimental neurology  2009;218(2):333-346.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease of motor neurons (MNs) that causes paralysis. Some forms of ALS are inherited, caused by mutations in the superoxide dismutase-1 (SOD1) gene. The mechanisms of human mutant SOD1 (mSOD1) toxicity to MNs are unresolved. Mitochondria in MNs might be key sites for ALS pathogenesis, but cause-effect relationships between mSOD1 and mitochrondiopathy need further study. We used transgenic mSOD1 mice to test the hypothesis that the mitochondrial permeability transition pore (mPTP) is involved in the MN degeneration of ALS. Components of the multi-protein mPTP are expressed highly in mouse MNs, including the voltage-dependent anion channel, adenine nucleotide translocator (ANT), and cyclophilin D (CyPD), and are present in mitochondria marked by manganese SOD. MNs in pre-symptomatic mSOD1-G93A mice form swollen megamitochondria with CyPD immunoreactivity. Early disease is associated with mitochondrial cristae remodeling and matrix vesiculation in ventral horn neuron dendrites. MN cell bodies accumulate mitochondria derived from the distal axons projecting to skeletal muscle. Incipient disease in spinal cord is associated with increased oxidative and nitrative stress, indicated by protein carbonyls and nitration of CyPD and ANT. Reducing the levels of CyPD by genetic ablation significantly delays disease onset and extends the lifespan of G93A-mSOD1 mice expressing high and low levels of mutant protein in a gender-dependent pattern. These results demonstrate that mitochondria have causal roles in the disease mechanisms in MNs in ALS mice. This work defines a new mitochondrial mechanism for MN degeneration in ALS.
PMCID: PMC2710399  PMID: 19272377
adenine nucleotide translocase; cristae remodeling; mutant SOD1; nitration; porin; ppif; voltage-dependent anion channel
16.  When Does ALS Start? ADAR2–GluA2 Hypothesis for the Etiology of Sporadic ALS 
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is the most common adult-onset motor neuron disease. More than 90% of ALS cases are sporadic, and the majority of sporadic ALS patients do not carry mutations in genes causative of familial ALS; therefore, investigation specifically targeting sporadic ALS is needed to discover the pathogenesis. The motor neurons of sporadic ALS patients express unedited GluA2 mRNA at the Q/R site in a disease-specific and motor neuron-selective manner. GluA2 is a subunit of the AMPA receptor, and it has a regulatory role in the Ca2+-permeability of the AMPA receptor after the genomic Q codon is replaced with the R codon in mRNA by adenosine–inosine conversion, which is mediated by adenosine deaminase acting on RNA 2 (ADAR2). Therefore, ADAR2 activity may not be sufficient to edit all GluA2 mRNA expressed in the motor neurons of ALS patients. To investigate whether deficient ADAR2 activity plays pathogenic roles in sporadic ALS, we generated genetically modified mice (AR2) in which the ADAR2 gene was conditionally knocked out in the motor neurons. AR2 mice showed an ALS-like phenotype with the death of ADAR2-lacking motor neurons. Notably, the motor neurons deficient in ADAR2 survived when they expressed only edited GluA2 in AR2/GluR-BR/R (AR2res) mice, in which the endogenous GluA2 alleles were replaced by the GluR-BR allele that encoded edited GluA2. In heterozygous AR2 mice with only one ADAR2 allele, approximately 20% of the spinal motor neurons expressed unedited GluA2 and underwent degeneration, indicating that half-normal ADAR2 activity is not sufficient to edit all GluA2 expressed in motor neurons. It is likely therefore that the expression of unedited GluA2 causes the death of motor neurons in sporadic ALS. We hypothesize that a progressive downregulation of ADAR2 activity plays a critical role in the pathogenesis of sporadic ALS and that the pathological process commences when motor neurons express unedited GluA2.
PMCID: PMC3214764  PMID: 22102833
ADAR2; RNA editing; GluA2; Q/R site; ALS; neuronal death; AMPA
17.  Apelin Deficiency Accelerates the Progression of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23968.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by the selective loss of motor neurons. Recent studies have implicated that chronic hypoxia and insufficient vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-dependent neuroprotection may lead to the degeneration of motor neurons in ALS. Expression of apelin, an endogenous ligand for the G protein-coupled receptor APJ, is regulated by hypoxia. In addition, recent reports suggest that apelin protects neurons against glutamate-induced excitotoxicity. Here, we examined whether apelin is an endogenous neuroprotective factor using SOD1G93A mouse model of ALS. In mouse CNS tissues, the highest expressions of both apelin and APJ mRNAs were detected in spinal cord. APJ immunoreactivity was observed in neuronal cell bodies located in gray matter of spinal cord. Although apelin mRNA expression in the spinal cord of wild-type mice was not changed from 4 to 18 weeks age, that of SOD1G93A mice was reduced along with the paralytic phenotype. In addition, double mutant apelin-deficient and SOD1G93A displayed the disease phenotypes earlier than SOD1G93A littermates. Immunohistochemical observation revealed that the number of motor neurons was decreased and microglia were activated in the spinal cord of the double mutant mice, indicating that apelin deficiency pathologically accelerated the progression of ALS. Furthermore, we showed that apelin enhanced the protective effect of VEGF on H2O2-induced neuronal death in primary neurons. These results suggest that apelin/APJ system in the spinal cord has a neuroprotective effect against the pathogenesis of ALS.
PMCID: PMC3161091  PMID: 21887354
18.  A Role for Oxidized DNA Precursors in Huntington's Disease–Like Striatal Neurodegeneration 
PLoS Genetics  2008;4(11):e1000266.
Several human neurodegenerative disorders are characterized by the accumulation of 8-oxo-7,8-dihydroguanine (8-oxodG) in the DNA of affected neurons. This can occur either through direct oxidation of DNA guanine or via incorporation of the oxidized nucleotide during replication. Hydrolases that degrade oxidized purine nucleoside triphosphates normally minimize this incorporation. hMTH1 is the major human hydrolase. It degrades both 8-oxodGTP and 8-oxoGTP to the corresponding monophosphates. To investigate whether the incorporation of oxidized nucleic acid precursors contributes to neurodegeneration, we constructed a transgenic mouse in which the human hMTH1 8-oxodGTPase is expressed. hMTH1 expression protected embryonic fibroblasts and mouse tissues against the effects of oxidants. Wild-type mice exposed to 3-nitropropionic acid develop neuropathological and behavioural symptoms that resemble those of Huntington's disease. hMTH1 transgene expression conferred a dramatic protection against these Huntington's disease–like symptoms, including weight loss, dystonia and gait abnormalities, striatal degeneration, and death. In a complementary approach, an in vitro genetic model for Huntington's disease was also used. hMTH1 expression protected progenitor striatal cells containing an expanded CAG repeat of the huntingtin gene from toxicity associated with expression of the mutant huntingtin. The findings implicate oxidized nucleic acid precursors in the neuropathological features of Huntington's disease and identify the utilization of oxidized nucleoside triphosphates by striatal cells as a significant contributor to the pathogenesis of this disorder.
Author Summary
The oxidized purine 8-oxo-7,8-dihydroguanine (8-oxodG) is often found at high levels in DNA of post-mortem brains of patients afflicted by Huntington's disease (HD) and other neurodegenerative conditions. It has been unclear, however, whether this damage accumulation is a consequence or a cause of neurodegeneration. We have addressed this problem in a transgenic mouse model in which the human hMTH1 8-oxodGTPase, which hydrolyzes oxidized nucleoside triphosphates to prevent the incorporation of oxidized bases into nucleic acids, was expressed in several organs. We report that high-level hMTH1 expression in the transgenic mouse brain provides robust protection against neurodegeneration as well as HD-like behavioural and neuropathological symptoms in a chemical model of HD (the mitochondrial toxin 3-nitropropionic acid). In a complementary approach, we used a genetic model for HD based on the use of progenitor striatal cells containing an expanded CAG repeat of the huntingtin gene. Also, in this case, hMTH1 provided strong protection against cell death associated with expression of the mutant huntingtin protein. The new findings we report shed important light on the connection between oxidative DNA damage and human neurodegenerative disorders. Our findings go some way towards forging a causative link between neurodegeneration and oxidative DNA/RNA damage and identify the oxidized purine nucleoside triphosphates as important contributors.
PMCID: PMC2580033  PMID: 19023407
19.  Melatonin inhibits the caspase-1/cytochrome c/caspase-3 cell death pathway, inhibits MT1 receptor loss and delays disease progression in a mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 
Neurobiology of disease  2013;55:26-35.
Caspase-mediated cell death contributes to the pathogenesis of motor neuron degeneration in the mutant SOD1G93A transgenic mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), along with other factors such as inflammation and oxidative damage. By screening a drug library, we found that melatonin, a pineal hormone, inhibited cytochrome c release in purified mitochondria and prevented cell death in cultured neurons. In this study, we evaluated whether melatonin would slow disease progression in SOD1G93A mice. We demonstrate that melatonin significantly delayed disease onset, neurological deterioration and mortality in ALS mice. ALS-associated ventral horn atrophy and motor neuron death were also inhibited by melatonin treatment. Melatonin inhibited Rip2/caspase-1 pathway activation, blocked the release of mitochondrial cytochrome c, and reduced the overexpression and activation of caspase-3. Moreover, for the first time, we determined that disease progression was associated with the loss of both melatonin and the melatonin receptor 1A (MT1) in the spinal cord of ALS mice. These results demonstrate that melatonin is neuroprotective in transgenic ALS mice, and this protective effect is mediated through its effects on the caspase-mediated cell death pathway. Furthermore, our data suggest that melatonin and MT1 receptor loss may play a role in the pathological phenotype observed in ALS. The above observations indicate that melatonin and modulation of Rip2/caspase-1/cytochrome c or MT1 pathways may be promising therapeutic approaches for ALS.
PMCID: PMC3652329  PMID: 23537713
Melatonin; caspases; cytochrome c; apoptosis; melatonin receptor 1A; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
20.  Up-regulation of neural and cell cycle-related microRNAs in brain of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis mice at late disease stage 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:5.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease characterized by selective motor neuron degeneration in motor cortex, brainstem and spinal cord. microRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs that bind complementary target sequences and modulate gene expression; they are key molecules for establishing a neuronal phenotype, and in neurodegeneration. Here we investigated neural miR-9, miR-124a, miR-125b, miR-219, miR-134, and cell cycle-related miR-19a and -19b, in G93A-SOD1 mouse brain in pre-symptomatic and late stage disease.
Expression of miR-9, miR-124a, miR-19a and -19b was significantly increased in G93A-SOD1 whole brain at late stage disease compared to B6.SJL and Wt-SOD1 control brains. These miRNAs were then analyzed in manually dissected SVZ, hippocampus, primary motor cortex and brainstem motor nuclei in 18-week-old ALS mice compared to same age controls. In SVZ and hippocampus miR-124a was up-regulated, miR-219 was down-regulated, and numbers of neural stem progenitor cells (NSPCs) were significantly increased. In G93A-SOD1 brainstem motor nuclei and primary motor cortex, miR-9 and miR-124a were significantly up-regulated, miR-125b expression was also increased. miR-19a and -19b were up-regulated in primary motor cortex and hippocampus, respectively. Expression analysis of predicted miRNA targets identified miRNA/target gene pairs differentially expressed in G93A-SOD1 brain regions compared to controls.
Hierarchical clustering analysis, identifying two clusters of miRNA/target genes, one characterizing brainstem motor nuclei and primary motor cortex, the other hippocampus and SVZ, suggests that altered expression of neural and cell cycle-related miRNAs in these brain regions might contribute to ALS pathogenesis in G93A-SOD1 mice. Re-establishing their expression to normal levels could be a new therapeutic approach to ALS.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13041-015-0095-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4318136  PMID: 25626686
G93A-SOD1 mice; microRNAs; Neural stem progenitor cells
21.  Skeletal muscle-restricted expression of human SOD1 causes motor neuron degeneration in transgenic mice 
Human Molecular Genetics  2010;19(11):2284-2302.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease of motor neurons (MNs) that causes skeletal muscle paralysis. Familial forms of ALS are linked to mutations in the superoxide dismutase-1 (SOD1) gene. The mechanisms of human SOD1 (hSOD1) toxicity to MNs are unknown. We hypothesized that skeletal muscle is a primary site of pathogenesis in ALS that triggers MN degeneration. We created transgenic (tg) mice expressing wild-type-, G37R- and G93A-hSOD1 gene variants only in skeletal muscle. These tg mice developed age-related neurologic and pathologic phenotypes consistent with ALS. Affected mice showed limb weakness and paresis with motor deficits. Skeletal muscles developed severe pathology involving oxidative damage, protein nitration, myofiber cell death and marked neuromuscular junction (NMJ) abnormalities. Spinal MNs developed distal axonopathy and formed ubiquitinated inclusions and degenerated through an apoptotic-like pathway involving capsase-3. Mice expressing wild-type and mutant forms of hSOD1 developed MN pathology. These results demonstrate that human SOD1 in skeletal muscle has a causal role in ALS and identify a new non-autonomous mechanism for MN degeneration explaining their selective vulnerability. The discovery of instigating molecular toxicities or disease progression determinants within skeletal muscle could be very valuable for the development of new effective therapies for the treatment and cure of ALS.
PMCID: PMC2865380  PMID: 20223753
22.  Mutant SOD1 microglia-generated nitroxidative stress promotes toxicity to human fetal neural stem cell-derived motor neurons through direct damage and noxious interactions with astrocytes 
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a devastating motor neuron disease. Human neural stem cells (hNSCs) may have the potential to replace lost motor neurons. The therapeutic efficacy of stem cell therapy depends greatly on the survival of grafted stem cell-derived motor neurons in the microenvironment of the spinal cord in ALS. After transplantation of hNSCs into the spinal cords of transgenic ALS rats, morphological analysis reveals that grafted hNSCs differentiate into motor neurons. However, hNSCs degenerate and show signs of nitroxidative damage at the disease end-stage. Using an in vitro coculture system, we systematically assess interactions between microglia and astroglia derived from both nontransgenic rats and transgenic rats expressing human mutant SOD1G93A before and after symptomatic disease onset, and determine the effects of such microglia-astroglia interactions on the survival of hNSC-derived motor neurons. We found that ALS microglia, specifically isolated after symptomatic disease onset, are directly toxic to hNSC-derived motor neurons. Furthermore, nontransgenic astrocytes not only lose their protective role in hNSC-derived motor neuron survival in vitro, but also exhibit toxic features when cocultured with mutant SOD1G93A microglia. Using inhibitors of inducible nitric oxide synthase and NADPH oxidase, we show that microglia-generated nitric oxide and superoxide partially contribute to motor neuron loss and astrocyte dysfunction in this coculture paradigm. In summary, reactive oxygen/nitrogen species released from overactivated microglia in ALS directly eliminate human neural stem cell-derived motor neurons and reduce the neuroprotective capacities of astrocytes
PMCID: PMC3643388  PMID: 23671793
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; microglia; astroglia; motor neuron; transplantation; oxidative stress
23.  Neuromuscular effects of G93A-SOD1 expression in zebrafish 
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal disorder involving the degeneration and loss of motor neurons. The mechanisms of motor neuron loss in ALS are unknown and there are no effective treatments. Defects in the distal axon and at the neuromuscular junction are early events in the disease course, and zebrafish provide a promising in vivo system to examine cellular mechanisms and treatments for these events in ALS pathogenesis.
We demonstrate that transient genetic manipulation of zebrafish to express G93A-SOD1, a mutation associated with familial ALS, results in early defects in motor neuron outgrowth and axonal branching. This is consistent with previous reports on motor neuron axonal defects associated with familial ALS genes following knockdown or mutant protein overexpression. We also demonstrate that upregulation of growth factor signaling is capable of rescuing these early defects, validating the potential of the model for therapeutic discovery. We generated stable transgenic zebrafish lines expressing G93A-SOD1 to further characterize the consequences of G93A-SOD1 expression on neuromuscular pathology and disease progression. Behavioral monitoring reveals evidence of motor dysfunction and decreased activity in transgenic ALS zebrafish. Examination of neuromuscular and neuronal pathology throughout the disease course reveals a loss of neuromuscular junctions and alterations in motor neuron innervations patterns with disease progression. Finally, motor neuron cell loss is evident later in the disease.
This sequence of events reflects the stepwise mechanisms of degeneration in ALS, and provides a novel model for mechanistic discovery and therapeutic development for neuromuscular degeneration in ALS.
PMCID: PMC3506515  PMID: 22938571
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); Motor neuron (MN); Zebrafish; Cu2+/Zn2+ superoxide dismutase (SOD1); G93A-SOD1; Neuromuscular junction; Neurodegeneration
24.  Glycine Receptor Channels in Spinal Motoneurons are Abnormal in a Transgenic Mouse Model of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis 
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a rapidly evolving and fatal adult-onset neurological disease characterized by progressive degeneration of motoneurons. Our previous study showed that glycinergic innervation of spinal motoneurons is deficient in an ALS mouse model expressing a mutant form of human superoxide dismutase-1 with a Gly93→Ala substitution (G93A-SOD1). In this study we have examined, using whole-cell patch clamp recordings, glycine receptor (GlyR)-mediated currents in spinal motoneurons from these transgenic mice. We developed a dissociated spinal cord culture model using embryonic transgenic mice expressing eGFP driven by the Hb9 promoter. Motoneurons were identified as Hb9-eGFP+ neurons with a characteristic morphology. To examine GlyRs in ALS motoneurons, we bred G93A-SOD1 mice to Hb9-eGFP mice and compared glycine-evoked currents in cultured Hb9-eGFP+ motoneurons prepared from G93A-SOD1 embryos and from their non-transgenic littermates. Glycine-evoked current density was significantly smaller in the G93A-SOD1 motoneurons compared with control. Furthermore, the averaged current densities of spontaneous glycinergic miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents (mIPSCs) were significantly smaller in the G93A-SOD1 motoneurons than in control motoneurons. No significant differences in GABA-induced currents and GABAergic mIPSCs were observed between G93A-SOD1 and control motoneurons. Quantitative single-cell RT-PCR found lower GlyRα1 subunit mRNA expression in G93A-SOD1 motoneurons, indicating that the reduction of GlyR current may result from the downregulation of GlyR mRNA expression in motoneurons. Immunocytochemistry demonstrated a decrease of surface postsynaptic GlyR on G93A-SOD1 motoneurons. Our study suggests that selective alterations in GlyR function contribute to inhibitory insufficiency in motoneurons early in the disease process of ALS.
PMCID: PMC3081715  PMID: 21414903
Hb9-eGFP; mutant SOD1; motoneuron culture; GABAA receptor; patch clamp; single-cell RT-PCR
25.  Prevention of intestinal obstruction reveals progressive neurodegeneration in mutant TDP-43 (A315T) mice 
Intraneuronal inclusions of TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43) have been found in the majority of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) patients. Mutations in the gene encoding TDP-43 cause familial ALS. Transgenic mice expressing mutant TDP-43 with one such mutation (TDP-43 (A315T)) under control of the murine prion promoter develop motor symptoms, but their use is currently hampered by sudden death. We aimed to understand and overcome the cause of sudden death in TDP-43 (A315T) mice. Since intestinal obstruction was suspected to be the cause, intestinal motility of TDP-43 (A315T) mice was studied in an ex-vivo pellet propulsion assay. The effect on the enteric and motor phenotype was assessed, both in animals on normal chow or on a jellified fiber deprived diet, aimed at preventing intestinal obstruction.
The frequency of the propulsive motor complexes was significantly reduced in the colon of TDP-43 (A315T) compared to non transgenic (NTG) mice. Immunohistochemistry revealed significant enlargement in size and reduction in number of the nitric oxide synthase (NOS) neurons in the myenteric plexus of TDP-43 (A315T) mice. Prevention of intestinal obstruction by jellified food abolished sudden death, allowing the motor phenotype to develop and slowly progress with a more pronounced degeneration of upper and lower motor axons. A downregulation of endogenous TDP-43 mRNA and protein levels was observed prior to neurodegeneration.
TDP-43 (A315T) mice suffer from intestinal dysmotility due to degeneration of NOS neurons in the myenteric plexus. Feeding the mice jellified food prevents sudden death and allows the motor phenotype to progress.
PMCID: PMC4088917  PMID: 24938805
ALS; TDP43; Gastro-intestinal tract; Neurodegeneration; Enteric nervous system

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