Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease characterized by a selective degeneration of motor neurons, atrophy, and paralysis of skeletal muscle. Although a significant proportion of familial ALS results from a toxic gain of function associated with dominant SOD1 mutations, the etiology of the disease and its specific cellular origins have remained difficult to define. Here, we show that muscle-restricted expression of a localized insulin-like growth factor (Igf) -1 isoform maintained muscle integrity and enhanced satellite cell activity in SOD1G93A transgenic mice, inducing calcineurin-mediated regenerative pathways. Muscle-specific expression of local Igf-1 (mIgf-1) isoform also stabilized neuromuscular junctions, reduced inflammation in the spinal cord, and enhanced motor neuronal survival in SOD1G93A mice, delaying the onset and progression of the disease. These studies establish skeletal muscle as a primary target for the dominant action of inherited SOD1 mutation and suggest that muscle fibers provide appropriate factors, such as mIgf-1, for neuron survival.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects both upper and lower motor neurons (MN) resulting in weakness, paralysis and subsequent death. Insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) is a potent neurotrophic factor that has neuroprotective properties in the central and peripheral nervous systems. Due to the efficacy of IGF-I in the treatment of other diseases and its ability to promote neuronal survival, IGF-I is being extensively studied in ALS therapeutic trials. This review covers in vitro and in vivo studies examining the efficacy of IGF-I in ALS model systems and also addresses the mechanisms by which IGF-I asserts its effects in these models, the status of the IGF-I system in ALS patients, results of clinical trials, and the need for the development of better delivery mechanisms to maximize IGF-I efficacy. The knowledge obtained from these studies suggests that IGF-I has the potential to be a safe and efficacious therapy for ALS.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; insulin-like growth factor-I; treatment
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder characterized by progressive paralysis due to motor neuron degeneration. Despite the fact that many different therapeutic strategies have been applied to prevent disease progression, no cure or effective therapy is currently available for ALS. We found that L-arginine protects cultured motor neurons from excitotoxic injury. We also found that L-arginine supplementation both prior to and after the onset of motor neuron degeneration in mtSOD1 (G93A) transgenic ALS mice significantly slowed the progression of neuropathology in lumbar spinal cord, delayed onset of motor dysfunction, and prolonged lifespan. Moreover, L-arginine treatment was associated with preservation of arginase I activity and neuroprotective polyamines in spinal cord motor neurons. Our findings show that L-arginine has potent in vitro and in vivo neuroprotective properties and may be a candidate for therapeutic trials in ALS.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); L-arginine; motor neuron; polyamines; superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1)
Delivery of therapeutics to the brain and spinal cord remains a challenge for neurodegenerative diseases, such as spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The blood-brain-barrier (BBB) hampers delivery of therapeutics to neurons, glia, and surrounding cell types of the central nervous system (CNS) that may be involved in disease progression. Here, we describe an intravenous injection of adeno-associated-virus-9 (AAV-9) in mouse that efficiently targets brain, dorsal root ganglia and spinal cord motor neurons in neonatal animals and astrocytes in adult mouse brain and spinal cords, offering a new therapeutic delivery approach to deliver genes to widespread regions within the CNS.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disease where motor neurons within the brain and spinal cord are lost, leading to paralysis and death. Recently, a correlation has been reported between head trauma and the incidence of ALS. Furthermore, new invasive neurosurgical studies are being planned which involve inserting needles directly to the spinal cord. We therefore tested whether acute trauma to the spinal cord via a knife wound injury would lead to accelerated disease progression in rodent models of ALS (SOD1G93A rats). A longitudinal stab injury using a small knife was performed within the lumbar spinal cord region of presymptomatic SOD1G93A rats. Host glial activation was detected in the lumbar area surrounding a micro-knife lesion at 2 weeks post-surgery in both wild type and SOD1G93A animals. However, there was no sign of motor neuron loss in the injured spinal cord of any animal and normal motor function was maintained in the ipsilateral limb. These results indicate that motor neurons in pre-symptomatic G93A animals are not affected by an invasive puncture wound injury involving reactive astrocytes. Furthermore, acute trauma alone does not accelerate disease onset or progression in this ALS model which is important for future strategies of gene and cell therapies directly targeting the spinal cord of ALS patients.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); SOD1G93A rats; acute trauma; stab injury; astrocyte activation; motor neuron; spinal cord
The primary cilium is a solitary organelle important in cellular signaling, that projects from the cell surface of most growth-arrested or post-mitotic cells including neurons in the central nervous system. We hypothesized that primary cilial dysfunction might play a role in the pathogenesis of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), and as a first step, report on the prevalence of primary cilial markers on cultured motor neurons from the lumbar spinal cord of embryonic wildtype (WT) and transgenic G93A SOD1 mice, and on motor neurons in situ in the lumbar spinal cord.
At 7 days in culture there is no difference in the proportion of G93A SOD1 and WT motor neurons staining for the cilial marker ACIII. However, at 21 days there is a large relative drop in the proportion of ciliated G93A SOD1 motor neurons. In situ, at 40 days there was a slight relative drop in the proportion of ciliated motor neurons in G93A SOD1 mice. At 98 days of age there was no change in motor neuron ciliation in WT mice, but there was motor neuron loss and a large reduction in the proportion of surviving motor neurons bearing a primary cilium in G93A SOD1 mice.
In primary culture and in situ in G93A SOD1 mice there is a large reduction in the proportion of motor neurons bearing a primary cilium.
Mutation in the ubiquitously expressed cytoplasmic superoxide dismutase (SOD1) causes an inherited form of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Mutant synthesis in motor neurons drives disease onset and early disease progression. Previous experimental studies have shown that spinal grafting of human fetal spinal neural stem cells (hNSCs) into the lumbar spinal cord of SOD1G93A rats leads to a moderate therapeutical effect as evidenced by local α-motoneuron sparing and extension of lifespan. The aim of the present study was to analyze the degree of therapeutical effect of hNSCs once grafted into the lumbar spinal ventral horn in presymptomatic immunosuppressed SOD1G93A rats and to assess the presence and functional integrity of the descending motor system in symptomatic SOD1G93A animals.
Presymptomatic SOD1G93A rats (60–65 days old) received spinal lumbar injections of hNSCs. After cell grafting, disease onset, disease progression and lifespan were analyzed. In separate symptomatic SOD1G93A rats, the presence and functional conductivity of descending motor tracts (corticospinal and rubrospinal) was analyzed by spinal surface recording electrodes after electrical stimulation of the motor cortex. Silver impregnation of lumbar spinal cord sections and descending motor axon counting in plastic spinal cord sections were used to validate morphologically the integrity of descending motor tracts. Grafting of hNSCs into the lumbar spinal cord of SOD1G93A rats protected α-motoneurons in the vicinity of grafted cells, provided transient functional improvement, but offered no protection to α-motoneuron pools distant from grafted lumbar segments. Analysis of motor-evoked potentials recorded from the thoracic spinal cord of symptomatic SOD1G93A rats showed a near complete loss of descending motor tract conduction, corresponding to a significant (50–65%) loss of large caliber descending motor axons.
These data demonstrate that in order to achieve a more clinically-adequate treatment, cell-replacement/gene therapy strategies will likely require both spinal and supraspinal targets.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a rapidly progressing fatal neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the selective death of motor neurons (MN) in the spinal cord, and is associated with local neuroinflammation. Circulating CD4+ T cells are required for controlling the local detrimental inflammation in neurodegenerative diseases, and for supporting neuronal survival, including that of MN. T-cell deficiency increases neuronal loss, while boosting T cell levels reduces it. Here, we show that in the mutant superoxide dismutase 1 G93A (mSOD1) mouse model of ALS, the levels of natural killer T (NKT) cells increased dramatically, and T-cell distribution was altered both in lymphoid organs and in the spinal cord relative to wild-type mice. The most significant elevation of NKT cells was observed in the liver, concomitant with organ atrophy. Hepatic expression levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1 decreased, while the expression of IGF binding protein (IGFBP)-1 was augmented by more than 20-fold in mSOD1 mice relative to wild-type animals. Moreover, hepatic lymphocytes of pre-symptomatic mSOD1 mice were found to secrete significantly higher levels of cytokines when stimulated with an NKT ligand, ex-vivo. Immunomodulation of NKT cells using an analogue of α-galactosyl ceramide (α-GalCer), in a specific regimen, diminished the number of these cells in the periphery, and induced recruitment of T cells into the affected spinal cord, leading to a modest but significant prolongation of life span of mSOD1 mice. These results identify NKT cells as potential players in ALS, and the liver as an additional site of major pathology in this disease, thereby emphasizing that ALS is not only a non-cell autonomous, but a non-tissue autonomous disease, as well. Moreover, the results suggest potential new therapeutic targets such as the liver for immunomodulatory intervention for modifying the disease, in addition to MN-based neuroprotection and systemic treatments aimed at reducing oxidative stress.
Mutations in superoxide dismutase cause a subset of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and provoke progressive paralysis when expressed in mice. After retrograde transport to the spinal cord following injection into muscles, an adeno-associated virus carrying a gene that encodes a small interfering RNA was shown to target superoxide dismutase messenger RNA for degradation. The corresponding decrease in mutant superoxide dismutase in spinal motor neurons preserved grip strength. This finding provides proof of principle for the selective reduction of any neuronal protein and supports intramuscular injections of a small interfering RNA–encoding virus as a viable therapy for this type of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
The role of neuroinflammation in motor neuron death of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is unclear. The human mutant superoxide dismutase-1 (hmSOD1)-expressing murine transgenic model of ALS has provided some insight into changes in microglia activity during disease progression. The purpose of this study was to gain further knowledge by characterizing the immunological changes during disease progression in the spinal cord and peripheral nerve using the more recently developed hmSOD1 rat transgenic model of ALS.
Using immunohistochemistry, the extent and intensity of tissue CD11b expression in spinal cord, lumbar nerve roots, and sciatic nerve were evaluated in hmSOD1 rats that were pre-clinical, at clinical onset, and near disease end-stage. Changes in CD11b expression were compared to the detection of MHC class II and CD68 microglial activation markers in the ventral horn of the spinal cord, as well as to the changes in astrocytic GFAP expression.
Our study reveals an accumulation of microglia/macrophages both in the spinal cord and peripheral nerve prior to clinical onset based on CD11b tissue expression. The microglia formed focal aggregates in the ventral horn and became more widespread as the disease progressed. Hypertrophic astrocytes were not prominent in the ventral horn until after clinical onset, and the enhancement of GFAP did not have a strong correlation to increased CD11b expression. Detection of MHC class II and CD68 expression was found in the ventral horn only after clinical onset. The macrophages in the ventral nerve root and sciatic nerve of hmSOD1 rats were observed encircling axons.
These findings describe for the first time in the hmSOD1 rat transgenic model of ALS that enhancement of microglia/macrophage activity occurs pre-clinically both in the peripheral nerve and in the spinal cord. CD11b expression is shown to be a superior indicator for early immunological changes compared to other microglia activation markers and astrogliosis. Furthermore, we suggest that the early activity of microglia/macrophages is involved in the early phase of motor neuron degeneration and propose that studies involving immunomodulation in hmSOD1transgenic models need to consider effects on macrophages in peripheral nerves as well as to microglia in the spinal cord.
Cellular abnormalities in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are not limited to motor neurons. Astrocyte dysfunction occurs in human ALS and SOD1G93A animal models. Therefore, the value of focal enrichment of normal astrocytes was investigated using transplantation of lineage-restricted astrocyte precursors, Glial-Restricted Precursors (GRPs). GRPs were transplanted around cervical spinal cord respiratory motor neuron pools, the principal cells responsible for death in this neurodegenerative disease. GRPs survived in diseased tissue, differentiated efficiently into astrocytes, and reduced microgliosis in SOD1G93A rat cervical spinal cord. GRPs extended survival and disease duration, attenuated motor neuron loss, and slowed declines in fore-limb motor and respiratory physiological function. Neuroprotection was mediated in part by the primary astrocyte glutamate transporter, GLT1. These findings demonstrate the feasibility and efficacy of transplantation-based astrocyte replacement, and show that targeted multi-segmental cell delivery to cervical spinal cord is a promising therapeutic strategy for slowing focal motor neuron loss associated with ALS.
stem cell; grafting; transplantation; motor neuron; neurodegeneration; replacement; neuroprotection; non-cell autonomous; astroglia; astrocyte; neural precursor cell; progenitor; lineage-restricted precursor; glial precursor; ALS; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; SOD1
Straightforward studies compared adeno-associated virus (AAV) serotypes to determine the most appropriate one for robust expression in the CNS. AAV9 was efficient when directly injected into the brain, but more surprisingly, AAV9 produced global expression in the brain and spinal cord after a peripheral, systemic route of administration to neonatal mice.
Topics include AAV9 gene delivery from intraparenchymal, intravenous, intrathecal and intrauterine routes of administration, and related preclinical studies and disease models. Systemic AAV9 gene transfer yields remarkably consistent neuronal expression, though only in early development. AAV9 is versatile to study neuropathological proteins: microtubule-associated protein tau and transactive response DNA-binding protein 43 kDa (TDP-43).
AAV9 will be more widely used based on current data, although other natural serotypes and recombineered vectors may also support or improve upon wide-scale expression. A peripheral-to-central gene delivery that can affect the entire CNS without having to inject the CNS is promising for basic functional experiments, and potentially for gene therapy. Systemic or intra-cerebrospinal fluid routes of AAV9 administration should be considered for spinal muscular atrophy, lysosomal storage diseases and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, if more neuronal expression can be achieved in adults, or if glial expression can be exploited.
adeno-associated virus; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; gene therapy; gene transfer; lysosomal storage disease; microtubule-associated protein tau; spinal cord; spinal muscular atrophy; TDP-43
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease of the motor system. Recent work in rodent models of ALS has shown that insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) slows disease progression when delivered at disease onset. However, IGF-1’s mechanism of action along the neuromuscular axis remains unclear. In this study, symptomatic ALS mice received IGF-1 through stereotaxic injection of an IGF-1-expressing viral vector to the deep cerebellar nuclei (DCN), a region of the cerebellum with extensive brain stem and spinal cord connections. We found that delivery of IGF-1 to the central nervous system (CNS) reduced ALS neuropathology, improved muscle strength, and significantly extended life span in ALS mice. To explore the mechanism of action of IGF-1, we used a newly developed in vitro model of ALS. We demonstrate that IGF-1 is potently neuroprotective and attenuates glial cell–mediated release of tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and nitric oxide (NO). Our results show that delivering IGF-1 to the CNS is sufficient to delay disease progression in a mouse model of familial ALS and demonstrate for the first time that IGF-1 attenuates the pathological activity of non-neuronal cells that contribute to disease progression. Our findings highlight an innovative approach for delivering IGF-1 to the CNS.
The ability of insulin like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) to prevent the pathophysiology associated with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is currently being explored with animal models and in clinical trials with patients. Several studies have reported positive effects of IGF-1 in reducing motor neuron death, delaying the onset of motor performance decline, and increasing life span, in SOD-1 mouse models of ALS and in one clinical trial. However, a second clinical trial produced no positive results raising questions about the therapeutic efficacy of IGF-1. To investigate the effect of specific and sustained IGF-1 expression in skeletal muscle or central nervous system on motor performance, life span, and motor neuron survival, human-IGF-1-transgenic mice were crossed with the G93A SOD-1 mutant model of ALS. No significant differences were found in onset of motor performance decline, life span, or motor neuron survival in the spinal cord, between SOD+/IGF-1+ and SOD+/IGF-1- hybrid mice. IGF-1 concentration levels, measured by radioimmunoassay, were found to be highly increased throughout life in the central nervous system (CNS) and skeletal muscle of IGF-1 transgenic hybrid mice. Additionally, increased CNS weight in SOD+ mice crossbred with CNS IGF-1 transgenic mice demonstrates that IGF-1 overexpression is biologically active even after the disease is fully developed. Taken together, these results raise questions concerning the therapeutic value of IGF-1 and indicate that further studies are needed to examine the relationship between methods of IGF-1 administration and its potential therapeutic value.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis; Insulin-like growth factor-1; motor neuron; cell death; skeletal muscle; transgenic; G93A SOD-1; motor performance
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is an adult-onset and fast progression neurodegenerative disease that leads to the loss of motor neurons. Mechanisms of selective motor neuron loss in ALS are unknown. The early events occurring in the spinal cord that may contribute to motor neuron death are not described, neither astrocytes participation in the pre-symptomatic phases of the disease. In order to identify ALS early events, we performed a microarray analysis employing a whole mouse genome platform to evaluate the gene expression pattern of lumbar spinal cords of transgenic SOD1G93A mice and their littermate controls at pre-symptomatic ages of 40 and 80 days. Differentially expressed genes were identified by means of the Bioconductor packages Agi4×44Preprocess and limma. FunNet web based tool was used for analysis of over-represented pathways. Furthermore, immunolabeled astrocytes from 40 and 80 days old mice were submitted to laser microdissection and RNA was extracted for evaluation of a selected gene by qPCR. Statistical analysis has pointed to 492 differentially expressed genes (155 up and 337 down regulated) in 40 days and 1105 (433 up and 672 down) in 80 days old ALS mice. KEGG analysis demonstrated the over-represented pathways tight junction, antigen processing and presentation, oxidative phosphorylation, endocytosis, chemokine signaling pathway, ubiquitin mediated proteolysis and glutamatergic synapse at both pre-symptomatic ages. Ube2i gene expression was evaluated in astrocytes from both transgenic ages, being up regulated in 40 and 80 days astrocytes enriched samples. Our data points to important early molecular events occurring in pre-symptomatic phases of ALS in mouse model. Early SUMOylation process linked to astrocytes might account to non-autonomous cell toxicity in ALS. Further studies on the signaling pathways presented here may provide new insights to better understand the events triggering motor neuron death in this devastating disorder.
ALS; SOD1G93A; pre-symptomatic; spinal cord; microarray; laser microdissection; astrocytes
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.
The organization, distribution, and function of neural progenitor cells (NPCs) in the adult spinal cord during motor neuron degeneration in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) remain largely unknown. Using nestin promoter controlled LacZ reporter transgenic mice and mutant G93A-SOD1 transgenic mice mimicking ALS, we showed that there was an increase of NPC proliferation, migration, and neurogenesis in the lumbar region of adult spinal cord in response to motor neuron degeneration. The proliferation of NPCs detected by BrdU incorporation and LacZ staining was restricted to the ependymal zone surrounding central canal (EZ). Once the NPCs moved out from the EZ, they lost the proliferative capability, but maintained migratory function vigorously. During ALS-like disease onset and progression, NPCs in the EZ migrated initially toward the dorsal horn direction, and then to the ventral horn regions, where motor neurons have degenerated. More significantly, there was an increased de novo neurogenesis from NPCs during ALS-like disease onset and progression. The enhanced proliferation, migration, and neurogenesis of (from) NPCs in the adult spinal cord of ALS-like mice may play an important role in attempting to repair the degenerated motor neurons and restore the dysfunctional circuitry which resulted from the pathogenesis of mutant SOD1 in ALS.
Neural progenitor cells; radial glia; glial progenitor cells; motor neurons; nestin; mutant SOD1; ALS
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disease of idiopathic etiology. Glutamate excitotoxicity is one of the proposed hypotheses causing progressive death of motor neurons. We aimed to develop an experimental animal model of this disease to enhance the knowledge of pathophysiological mechanism of ALS. Male Wistar rats were infused with Kainic acid (KA) intra-cisternally for 5 days at the dosage of 50 fmol/day and 150 fmol/day. Locomotor activity, sensory function and histological changes in cervical and lumbar sections of spinal cord were evaluated. Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein (GFAP) and Neurofilament Protein (NFP) were used as immunohistochemical marker for reactive astrogliosis and neuronal damage respectively. Specific Superoxide Dismutase (SOD) activity of spinal cord was estimated. The locomotor activity in the parameter of observed mean action time remained reduced on 14th day after administration of KA. Spinal motor neurons under Nissl stain showed pyknosis of nucleus and vacuolation of neuropil. GFAP expression increased significantly in the lumbar section of the spinal cord with high dose of KA treatment (p<0.05). NFP was expressed in axonal fibres around the neurons in KA-treated rats. A significant increase in specific SOD activity in both cervical and lumbar sections of the spinal cord was found with low dose of KA treatment (p<0.05). This study concludes that spinal cord damage with some features similar to ALS can be produced by low dose intra-cisternal administration of KA.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; kainic acid; glial fibrillary acidic protein; neurofilament protein; superoxide dismutase; spinal cord
In the vast majority of studies utilizing adeno-associated virus (AAV) in central nervous system applications, including those published with spinal cord injury (SCI) models, AAV has been administered at the level of the cell body of neurons targeted for genetic modification, resulting in transduction of neurons in the vicinity of the injection site. However, as SCI interrupts many axon tracts, it may be more beneficial to transduce a diverse pool of supraspinal neurons. We determined if descending axons severed by SCI are capable of retrogradely transporting AAV to remotely transduce a variety of brain regions. Different AAV serotypes encoding the reporter green fluorescent protein (GFP) were injected into gray and white matter immediately rostral to a spinal transection site. This resulted in the transduction of thousands of neurons within the spinal cord and in multiple regions within the brainstem that project to spinal cord. In addition, we established that different serotypes had disparate regional specificity and that AAV5 transduced the most brain and spinal cord neurons. This is the first demonstration that retrograde transport of AAV by axons severed by SCI is an effective means to transduce a collection of supraspinal neurons. Thus, we identify a novel, minimally invasive means to transduce a variety of neuronal populations within both the spinal cord and the brain following SCI. This paradigm to broadly distribute viral vectors has the potential to be an important component of a combinatorial strategy to promote functional axonal regeneration.
adeno-associated virus; propriospinal; retrograde transduction; spinal cord injury; supraspinal
An inflammatory response is a pathological hallmark of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a relentless and devastating degenerative disease of motoneurons. This response is not simply a late consequence of motoneuron degeneration, but actively contributes to the balance between neuroprotection and neurotoxicity; initially infiltrating lymphocytes and microglia slow disease progression, while later, they contribute to the acceleration of disease. Since motor weakness begins in the hindlimbs of ALS mice and only later involves the forelimbs, we determined whether differential protective versus injurious inflammatory responses in the cervical and lumbar spinal cords explained the temporally distinct clinical disease courses between the limbs of these mice. Densitometric evaluation of immunohistochemical sections and quantitative RT-PCR (qRT-PCR) demonstrated that CD68 and CD11c were differentially increased in their spinals cords. qRT-PCR revealed that protective and anti-inflammatory factors, including BDNF, GDNF, and IL-4, were increased in the cervical region compared with the lumbar region. In contrast, the toxic markers TNF-α, IL-1β and NOX2 were not different between ALS mice cervical and lumbar regions. T lymphocytes were observed infiltrating lumbar spinal cords of ALS mice prior to the cervical region; mRNA levels of the transcription factor gata-3 (Th2 response) were differentially elevated in the cervical cord of ALS mice whereas t-bet (Th1 response) was increased in the lumbar cord. These results reinforce the important balance between specific protective/injurious inflammatory immune responses in modulating clinical outcomes and suggest that the delayed forelimb motor weakness in ALS mice is partially explained by augmented protective responses in the cervical spinal cords.
ALS; IL-4; microglia; inflammation; protective microglia; toxic microglia; spinal cord
Proliferation of glia and immune cells is a common pathological feature of many neurodegenerative diseases including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Here, to investigate the role of proliferating cells in motor neuron disease, SOD1G93A transgenic mice were treated intracerebroventicularly (ICV) with the anti-mitotic drug cytosine arabinoside (Ara-C). ICV delivery of Ara-C accelerated disease progression in SOD1G93A mouse model of ALS. Ara-C treatment caused substantial decreases in the number of microglia, NG2+ progenitors, Olig2+ cells and CD3+ T cells in the lumbar spinal cord of symptomatic SOD1G93A transgenic mice. Exacerbation of disease was also associated with significant alterations in the expression inflammatory molecules IL-1β, IL-6, TGF-β and the growth factor IGF-1.
Neural progenitor cells (NPs) have shown several promising benefits for the treatment of neurological disorders. To evaluate the therapeutic potential of human neural progenitor cells (hNPs) in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), we transplanted hNPs or growth factor (GF)-expressing hNPs into the central nervous system (CNS) of mutant Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD1G93A) transgenic mice. The hNPs were engineered to express brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), VEGF, neurotrophin-3 (NT-3), or glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), respectively, by adenoviral vector and GDNF by lentiviral vector before transplantation. Donor-derived cells engrafted and migrated into the spinal cord or brain of ALS mice and differentiated into neurons, oligodendrocytes, or glutamate transporter-1 (GLT1)-expressing astrocytes while some cells retained immature markers. Transplantation of GDNF- or IGF-1-expressing hNPs attenuated the loss of motor neurons and induced trophic changes in motor neurons of the spinal cord. However, improvement in motor performance and extension of lifespan were not observed in all hNP transplantation groups compared to vehicle-injected controls. Moreover, the lifespan of GDNF-expressing hNP recipient mice by lentiviral vector was shortened compared to controls, which was largely due to the decreased survival times of female animals. These results imply that although implanted hNPs differentiate into GLT1-expressing astrocytes and secrete GFs, which maintain dying motor neurons, inadequate trophic support could be harmful and there is sexual dimorphism in response to GDNF delivery in ALS mice. Therefore, additional therapeutic approaches may be required for full functional recovery.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; cell differentiation; glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor; nerve growth factors; stem cell transplantation; stem cells
We compared the effect of viral administration of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) or neurotrophin 3 (NT-3) on locomotor recovery in adult rats with complete thoracic (T10) spinal cord transection injuries, in order to determine the effect of chronic neurotrophin expression on spinal plasticity. At the time of injury, BDNF, NT-3 or green fluorescent protein (GFP) (control) was delivered to the lesion via adeno-associated virus (AAV) constructs. AAV–BDNF was significantly more effective than AAV–NT-3 in eliciting locomotion. In fact, AAV–BDNF-treated rats displayed plantar, weight-supported hindlimb stepping on a stationary platform, that is, without the assistance of a moving treadmill and without step training. Rats receiving AAV–NT-3 or AAV–GFP were incapable of hindlimb stepping during this task, despite provision of balance support. AAV–NT-3 treatment did promote the recovery of treadmill-assisted stepping, but this required continuous perineal stimulation. In addition, AAV–BDNF-treated rats were sensitized to noxious heat, whereas AAV–NT-3-treated and AAV–GFP-treated rats were not. Notably, AAV–BDNF-treated rats also developed hindlimb spasticity, detracting from its potential clinical applicability via the current viral delivery method. Intracellular recording from triceps surae motoneurons revealed that AAV–BDNF significantly reduced motoneuron rheobase, suggesting that AAV–BDNF promoted the recovery of over-ground stepping by enhancing neuronal excitability. Elevated nuclear c-Fos expression in interneurons located in the L2 intermediate zone after AAV–BDNF treatment indicated increased activation of interneurons in the vicinity of the locomotor central pattern generator. AAV–NT-3 treatment reduced motoneuron excitability, with little change in c-Fos expression. These results support the potential for BDNF delivery at the lesion site to reorganize locomotor circuits.
c-Fos; locomotion; neurotrophin; plasticity; rheobase; spinal cord injury
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive degenerative disease affecting upper and lower motor neurons. Symptom onset may occur in the muscles of the limbs (spinal onset) or those of the head and neck (bulbar onset). Bulbar involvement is particularly important in ALS as it is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. The purpose of this study was to characterize bulbar motor deficits in the SOD1-G93A mouse model of familial ALS. We measured orolingual motor function by placing thirsty mice in a customized operant chamber that allows for measurement of tongue force and lick rhythm as animals lick water from an isometric disc. Testing spanned the pre-symptomatic, symptomatic, and end-stage segments of the disease. Rotarod performance, fore- and hindlimb grip strength, and locomotor activity were also monitored regularly during this period. We found that spinal involvement was apparent first, with both fore- and hindlimb grip strength being affected in SOD1-G93A mice from the onset of testing (64 days of age). Rotarod performance was affected by 71 days of age. Locomotor activity was not affected, even near end-stage. Bulbar involvement appeared much later, with tongue motility being affected by 100 days of age. Tongue force was affected by 115 days of age. To our knowledge, these findings are the first to describe the onset of bulbar v. spinal motor signs and characterize orolingual motor deficits in this preclinical model of ALS.
familial ALS; G1H; bulbar; tongue; operant behavioral task; grip strength
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a devastating neurodegenerative disease characterized by a progressive loss of lower motor neurons in the spinal cord. The incretin hormone, glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), facilitates insulin signaling, and the long acting GLP-1 receptor agonist exendin-4 (Ex-4) is currently used as an anti-diabetic drug. GLP-1 receptors are widely expressed in the brain and spinal cord, and our prior studies have shown that Ex-4 is neuroprotective in several neurodegenerative disease rodent models, including stroke, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. Here we hypothesized that Ex-4 may provide neuroprotective activity in ALS, and hence characterized Ex-4 actions in both cell culture (NSC-19 neuroblastoma cells) and in vivo (SOD1 G93A mutant mice) models of ALS. Ex-4 proved to be neurotrophic in NSC-19 cells, elevating choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) activity, as well as neuroprotective, protecting cells from hydrogen peroxide-induced oxidative stress and staurosporine-induced apoptosis. Additionally, in both wild-type SOD1 and mutant SOD1 (G37R) stably transfected NSC-19 cell lines, Ex-4 protected against trophic factor withdrawal-induced toxicity. To assess in vivo translation, SOD1 mutant mice were administered vehicle or Ex-4 at 6-weeks of age onwards to end-stage disease via subcutaneous osmotic pump to provide steady-state infusion. ALS mice treated with Ex-4 showed improved glucose tolerance and normalization of behavior, as assessed by running wheel, compared to control ALS mice. Furthermore, Ex-4 treatment attenuated neuronal cell death in the lumbar spinal cord; immunohistochemical analysis demonstrated the rescue of neuronal markers, such as ChAT, associated with motor neurons. Together, our results suggest that GLP-1 receptor agonists warrant further evaluation to assess whether their neuroprotective potential is of therapeutic relevance in ALS.