Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is an incurable neurodegenerative disease that primarily affects motoneurons in the brain and spinal cord. Dominant mutations in superoxide dismutase-1 (SOD1) cause a familial form of ALS. Mutant SOD1-damaged glial cells contribute to ALS pathogenesis by releasing neurotoxic factors, but the mechanistic basis of the motoneuron-specific elimination is poorly understood. Here, we describe a motoneuron-selective death pathway triggered by activation of lymphotoxin-β receptor (LT-βR) by LIGHT, and operating by a novel signaling scheme. We show that astrocytes expressing mutant SOD1 mediate the selective death of motoneurons through the proinflammatory cytokine interferon-γ (IFNγ), which activates the LIGHT-LT-βR death pathway. The expression of LIGHT and LT-βR by motoneurons in vivo correlates with the preferential expression of IFNγ by motoneurons and astrocytes at disease onset and symptomatic stage in ALS mice. Importantly, the genetic ablation of Light in an ALS mouse model retards progression, but not onset, of the disease and increases lifespan. We propose that IFNγ contributes to a cross-talk between motoneurons and astrocytes causing the selective loss of some motoneurons following activation of the LIGHT-induced death pathway.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; interferon-γ; LIGHT; astrocytes; motoneurons
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.
Hb9-eGFP; mutant SOD1; motoneuron culture; GABAA receptor; patch clamp; single-cell RT-PCR
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal motoneuronal disease which occurs in sporadic or familial forms, clinically indistinguishable. About 15% of familial ALS cases are linked to mutations of the superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) gene that may induce misfolding in the coded protein, exerting neurotoxicity to motoneurons. However, other cell types might be target of SOD1 toxicity, because muscle-restricted expression of mutant SOD1 correlates with muscle atrophy and motoneurons death. We analysed the molecular behaviour of mutant SOD1 in motoneuronal NSC34 and muscle C2C12 cells. We found that misfolded mutant SOD1 clearance is much more efficient in muscle C2C12 than in motoneuronal NSC34 cells. Mutant SOD1 forms aggregates and impairs the proteasome only in motoneuronal NSC34 cells. Interestingly, NSC34 cells expressing mutant SOD1 are more sensitive to a superoxide-induced oxidative stress. Moreover, in muscle C2C12 cells mutant SOD1 remains soluble even when proteasome is inhibited with MG132. The higher mutant SOD1 clearance in muscle cells correlates with a more efficient proteasome activity, combined with a robust autophagy activation. Therefore, muscle cells seem to better manage misfolded SOD1 species, not because of an intrinsic property of the mutant protein, but in function of the cell environment, indicating also that the SOD1 toxicity at muscle level may not directly depend on its aggregation rate.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; autophagy; motoneuron diseases; muscle cells; proteasome; SOD1
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) generally is a late-onset neurodegenerative disease. Mutations in the Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) gene account for approximately 20% of familial ALS and 2% of all ALS cases. Although a number of hypotheses have been proposed to explain mutant SOD1 toxicity, the molecular mechanisms of the disease remain unclear. SOD1-linked ALS is thought to function in a non–cell-autonomous manner such that motoneurons are critical for the onset, and glia contribute to progression of the disease. Recently, it has been shown in Drosophila melanogaster that expression of human SOD1 in a subset of neuronal cells causes synaptic transmission defects, modified motor function, and altered sensitivity to compounds that induce oxidative stress. Here we used the Gal4-UAS (Upstream Activation Sequence) system to further characterize flies expressing wild-type Drosophila SOD1 (dSOD1) and the mutant human SOD1G85R (G85R) allele in motoneurons and glia. Cell-specific expression of both dSOD1 and G85R was found to influence lifespan, affect sensitivity to hydrogen peroxide, and alter lipid peroxidation levels. To better understand the genetic consequences of G85R expression in motoneurons and glia, we conducted microarray analysis of both young flies (5 days old) and old flies (45 days old) expressing G85R selectively in motoneurons or glia and concurrently in motoneurons and glia. Results from this microarray experiment identified candidate genes for further investigation and may help elucidate the individual and combined contributions of motoneurons and glia in ALS.
Drosophila; ALS; SOD1; glia; motoneuron
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease characterized by selective loss of motoneurons. Recently we studied glycine receptors (GlyRs) in motoneurons in an ALS mouse model expressing a mutant form of human superoxide dismutase-1 with a Gly93→Ala substitution (G93A-SOD1). Living motoneurons in dissociated spinal cord cultures were identified by using transgenic mice expressing eGFP driven by the Hb9 promoter. We showed that GlyR-mediated currents were reduced in large-sized (diameter >28 µm) Hb9-eGFP+ motoneurons from G93A-SOD1 embryonic mice. Here we analyze GlyR currents in a morphologically distinct subgroup of medium-sized (diameter 10–28 µm) Hb9-eGFP+ motoneurons, presumably gamma or slow-type alpha motoneurons. We find that glycine-induced current densities were not altered in medium-sized G93A-SOD1 motoneurons. No significant differences in glycinergic mIPSCs were observed between G93A-SOD1 and control medium-sized motoneurons. These results indicate that GlyR deficiency early in the disease process of ALS is specific for large alpha motoneurons.
Hb9-eGFP; mutant SOD1; motoneuron culture; patch clamp; mIPSC; gamma motoneuron; alpha motoneuron
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease characterized by upper and lower motoneuron death. Mutations in the gene for superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) cause a familial form of ALS and have been used to develop transgenic mice which overexpress human mutant SOD1 (mSOD) and these mice exhibit a motoneuron disease which is pathologically and phenotypically similar to ALS. Neuroinflammation is a pathological hallmark of many neurodegenerative diseases including ALS and is typified by the activation and proliferation of microglia and the infiltration of T cells into the brain and spinal cord. Although the neuroinflammatory response has been considered a consequence of neuronal dysfunction and death, evidence indicates that manipulation of this response can alter disease progression. Previously viewed as deleterious to neuronal survival, recent reports suggest a trophic role for activated microglia in the mSOD mouse during the early stages of disease that is dependent on instructive signals from infiltrating T cells. However, at advanced stages of disease, activated microglia acquire increased neurotoxic potential, warranting further investigation into factors capable of skewing microglial activation towards a neurotrophic phenotype as a means of therapeutic intervention in ALS.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is neurodegenerative disease characterized by muscle weakness and atrophy due to progressive motoneuron loss. The death of motoneuron is preceded by the failure of neuromuscular junctions (NMJs) and axonal retraction. Thus, to develop an effective ALS therapy you must simultaneously preserve motoneuron somas, motor axons and NMJs. A conditioning lesion has the potential to accomplish this since it has been shown to enhance neuronal survival and recovery from trauma in a variety of contexts.
To test the effects of a conditioning lesion in a model of familial ALS we administered a tibial nerve crush injury to presymptomatic fALSG93A rats. We examined its effects on motor function, motoneuron somas, motor axons, and NMJs. Our experiments revealed a novel paradigm for the conditioning lesion effect. Specifically we found that the motor functional decline in fALSG93A rats that received a conditioning lesion was delayed and less severe. These improvements in motor function corresponded to greater motoneuron survival, reduced motor axonopathy, and enhanced NMJ maintenance at disease end-stage. Furthermore, the increased NMJ maintenance was selective for muscle compartments innervated by the most resilient (slow) motoneuron subtypes, but was absent in muscle compartments innervated by the most vulnerable (fast fatigable) motoneuron subtypes.
These findings support the development of strategies aimed at mimicking the conditioning lesion effect to treat ALS as well as underlined the importance of considering the heterogeneity of motoneuron sub-types when evaluating prospective ALS therapeutics.
Through undefined mechanisms, dominant mutations in (Cu/Zn) superoxide dismutase-1 (mSOD1) cause the non-cell-autonomous death of motoneurons in inherited amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Microgliosis at sites of motoneuron injury is a neuropathological hallmark of ALS. Extracellular mSOD1 causes motoneuron injury and triggers microgliosis in spinal cord cultures, but it is unclear whether the injury results from extracellular mSOD1 directly interacting with motoneurons or is mediated through mSOD1-activated microglia. To dissociate these potential mSOD1-mediated neurotoxic mechanisms, the effects of extracellular human mSOD1G93A or mSOD1G85R were assayed using primary cultures of motoneurons and microglia. The data demonstrate that exogenous mSOD1G93A did not cause detectable direct killing of motoneurons. In contrast, mSOD1G93A or mSOD1G85R did induce the morphological and functional activation of microglia, increasing their release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and free radicals. Furthermore, only when microglia were co-cultured with motoneurons did extracellular mSOD1G93A injure motoneurons. The microglial activation mediated by mSOD1G93A was attenuated using toll-like receptors (TLR) 2, TLR4 and CD14 blocking antibodies, or when microglia lacked CD14 expression. These data suggest that extracellular mSOD1G93A is not directly toxic to motoneurons but requires microglial activation for toxicity, utilizing CD14 and TLR pathways. This link between mSOD1 and innate immunity may offer novel therapeutic targets in ALS.
mutant SOD1; CD14; Toll-like receptors; microglia; motoneurons
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative condition characterized by motoneuron degeneration and muscle paralysis. Although the precise pathogenesis of ALS remains unclear, mutations in Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD1) account for ∼20–25% of familial ALS cases, and transgenic mice overexpressing human mutant SOD1 develop an ALS-like phenotype. Evidence suggests that defects in axonal transport play an important role in neurodegeneration. In Legs at odd angles (Loa) mice, mutations in the motor protein dynein are associated with axonal transport defects and motoneuron degeneration. Here, we show that retrograde axonal transport defects are already present in motoneurons of SOD1G93A mice during embryonic development. Surprisingly, crossing SOD1G93A mice with Loa/+ mice delays disease progression and significantly increases life span in Loa/SOD1G93A mice. Moreover, there is a complete recovery in axonal transport deficits in motoneurons of these mice, which may be responsible for the amelioration of disease. We propose that impaired axonal transport is a prime cause of neuronal death in neurodegenerative disorders such as ALS.
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 fatal neurodegenerative disease of unknown cause, characterized by the selective and progressive death of both upper and lower motoneurons, leading to a progressive paralysis. Experimental animal models of the disease may provide knowledge of the pathophysiological mechanisms and allow the design and testing of therapeutic strategies, provided that they mimic as close as possible the symptoms and temporal progression of the human disease. The principal hypotheses proposed to explain the mechanisms of motoneuron degeneration have been studied mostly in models in vitro, such as primary cultures of fetal motoneurons, organotypic cultures of spinal cord sections from postnatal rodents and the motoneuron-like hybridoma cell line NSC-34. However, these models are flawed in the sense that they do not allow a direct correlation between motoneuron death and its physical consequences like paralysis. In vivo, the most widely used model is the transgenic mouse that bears a human mutant superoxide dismutase 1, the only known cause of ALS. The major disadvantage of this model is that it represents about 2%–3% of human ALS. In addition, there is a growing concern on the accuracy of these transgenic models and the extrapolations of the findings made in these animals to the clinics. Models of spontaneous motoneuron disease, like the wobbler and pmn mice, have been used aiming to understand the basic cellular mechanisms of motoneuron diseases, but these abnormalities are probably different from those occurring in ALS. Therefore, the design and testing of in vivo models of sporadic ALS, which accounts for >90% of the disease, is necessary. The main models of this type are based on the excitotoxic death of spinal motoneurons and might be useful even when there is no definitive demonstration that excitotoxicity is a cause of human ALS. Despite their difficulties, these models offer the best possibility to establish valid correlations between cellular alterations and motor behavior, although improvements are still necessary in order to produce a reliable and integrative model that accurately reproduces the cellular mechanisms of motoneuron degeneration in ALS.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a devastating neurodegenerative disease that results in progressive loss of motoneurons, motor weakness and death within 1–5 years after disease onset. Therapeutic options remain limited despite a substantial number of approaches that have been tested clinically. In particular, various neurotrophic factors have been investigated. Failure in these trials has been largely ascribed to problems of insufficient dosing or inability to cross the blood–brain barrier (BBB). We have recently uncovered the neurotrophic properties of the haematopoietic protein granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF). The protein is clinically well tolerated and crosses the intact BBB. This study examined the potential role of G-CSF in motoneuron diseases. We investigated the expression of the G-CSF receptor in motoneurons and studied effects of G-CSF in a motoneuron cell line and in the SOD1(G93A) transgenic mouse model. The neurotrophic growth factor was applied both by continuous subcutaneous delivery and CNS-targeted transgenic overexpression. This study shows that given at the stage of the disease where muscle denervation is already evident, G-CSF leads to significant improvement in motor performance, delays the onset of severe motor impairment and prolongs overall survival of SOD1(G93A)tg mice. The G-CSF receptor is expressed by motoneurons and G-CSF protects cultured motoneuronal cells from apoptosis. In ALS mice, G-CSF increased survival of motoneurons and decreased muscular denervation atrophy. We conclude that G-CSF is a novel neurotrophic factor for motoneurons that is an attractive and feasible drug candidate for the treatment of ALS.
ALS; growth factor; drug candidate; functional outcome; motoneuron survival
Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) exerts strong pro-survival effects on developing and injured motoneurons. However, in clinical trials, BDNF has failed to benefit patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). To date, the cause of this failure remains unclear. Motoneurons express the TrkB kinase receptor but also high levels of the truncated TrkB.T1 receptor isoform. Thus, we investigated whether the presence of this receptor may affect the response of diseased motoneurons to endogenous BDNF. We deleted TrkB.T1 in the hSOD1G93A ALS mouse model and evaluated the impact of this mutation on motoneuron death, muscle weakness and disease progression. We found that TrkB.T1 deletion significantly slowed the onset of motor neuron degeneration. Moreover, it delayed the development of muscle weakness by 33 days. Although the life span of the animals was not affected we observed an overall improvement in the neurological score at the late stage of the disease. To investigate the effectiveness of strategies aimed at bypassing the TrkB.T1 limit to BDNF signaling we treated SOD1 mutant mice with the adenosine A2A receptor agonist CGS21680, which can activate motoneuron TrkB receptor signaling independent of neurotrophins. We found that CGS21680 treatment slowed the onset of motor neuron degeneration and muscle weakness similarly to TrkB.T1 removal. Together, our data provide evidence that endogenous TrkB.T1 limits motoneuron responsiveness to BDNF in vivo and suggest that new strategies such as Trk receptor transactivation may be used for therapeutic intervention in ALS or other neurodegenerative disorders.
Vulnerability of motoneurons in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) arises from a combination of several mechanisms, including protein misfolding and aggregation, mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative damage. Protein aggregates are found in motoneurons in models for ALS linked to a mutation in the gene coding for Cu,Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD1) and in ALS patients as well. Aggregation of mutant SOD1 in the cytoplasm and/or into mitochondria has been repeatedly proposed as a main culprit for the degeneration of motoneurons. It is, however, still debated whether SOD1 aggregates represent a cause, a correlate or a consequence of processes leading to cell death. We have exploited the ability of glutaredoxins (Grxs) to reduce mixed disulfides to protein thiols either in the cytoplasm and in the IMS (Grx1) or in the mitochondrial matrix (Grx2) as a tool for restoring a correct redox environment and preventing the aggregation of mutant SOD1. Here we show that the overexpression of Grx1 increases the solubility of mutant SOD1 in the cytosol but does not inhibit mitochondrial damage and apoptosis induced by mutant SOD1 in neuronal cells (SH-SY5Y) or in immortalized motoneurons (NSC-34). Conversely, the overexpression of Grx2 increases the solubility of mutant SOD1 in mitochondria, interferes with mitochondrial fragmentation by modifying the expression pattern of proteins involved in mitochondrial dynamics, preserves mitochondrial function and strongly protects neuronal cells from apoptosis. The toxicity of mutant SOD1, therefore, mostly arises from mitochondrial dysfunction and rescue of mitochondrial damage may represent a promising therapeutic strategy.
Granulocyte colony stimulating factor (GCSF) is protective in animal models of various neurodegenerative diseases. We investigated whether pegfilgrastim, GCSF with sustained action, is protective in a mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). ALS is a fatal neurodegenerative disease with manifestations of upper and lower motoneuron death and muscle atrophy accompanied by inflammation in the CNS and periphery.
Human mutant G93A superoxide dismutase (SOD1) ALS mice were treated with pegfilgrastim starting at the presymptomatic stage and continued until the end stage. After long-term pegfilgrastim treatment, the inflammation status was defined in the spinal cord and peripheral tissues including hematopoietic organs and muscle. The effect of GCSF on spinal cord neuron survival and microglia, bone marrow and spleen monocyte activation was assessed in vitro.
Long-term pegfilgrastim treatment prolonged mutant SOD1 mice survival and attenuated both astro- and microgliosis in the spinal cord. Pegfilgrastim in SOD1 mice modulated the inflammatory cell populations in the bone marrow and spleen and reduced the production of pro-inflammatory cytokine in monocytes and microglia. The mobilization of hematopoietic stem cells into the circulation was restored back to basal level after long-term pegfilgrastim treatment in SOD1 mice while the storage of Ly6C expressing monocytes in the bone marrow and spleen remained elevated. After pegfilgrastim treatment, an increased proportion of these cells in the degenerative muscle was detected at the end stage of ALS.
GCSF attenuated inflammation in the CNS and the periphery in a mouse model of ALS and thereby delayed the progression of the disease. This mechanism of action targeting inflammation provides a new perspective of the usage of GCSF in the treatment of ALS.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; GCSF; pegfilgrastim; inflammation; monocytes; cytokines
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disorder mainly affecting motor neurons. Mutations in superoxide dismutase-1 (SOD-1) account for about 20% of familial ALS patients. A robust supply of motoneurons carrying the mutated gene would help understand the causes of motoneuron death and develop new therapeutics for the disease. Here, we established induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell lines from SOD1G93A mice and compared their potency in motoneuron generation with normal iPS cells and mouse embryonic stem cells (E14). Our results showed that iPS cells derived from SOD1G93A mice possessed the similar potency in neuronal differentiation to normal iPS cells and E14 cells and can be efficiently driven to motoneuron-like phenotype. These cells exhibited typical neuronal morphology, expressed key motoneuron markers, including ChAT and HB9, and generated repetitive trains of action potentials. Furthermore, these neurons highly expressed human SOD-1 and exhibited shorter neurites compared to controls. The present study provides evidence that ALS-iPS cells can be used as disease models in high-throughput screening and mechanistic studies due to their ability to efficiently differentiate into specific neuronal subtypes.
During pathology of the nervous system, increased extracellular ATP acts both as a cytotoxic factor and pro-inflammatory mediator through P2X7 receptors. In animal models of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), astrocytes expressing superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1G93A) mutations display a neuroinflammatory phenotype and contribute to disease progression and motor neuron death. Here we studied the role of extracellular ATP acting through P2X7 receptors as an initiator of a neurotoxic phenotype that leads to astrocyte-mediated motor neuron death in non-transgenic and SOD1G93A astrocytes.
We evaluated motor neuron survival after co-culture with SOD1G93A or non-transgenic astrocytes pretreated with agents known to modulate ATP release or P2X7 receptor. We also characterized astrocyte proliferation and extracellular ATP degradation.
Repeated stimulation by ATP or the P2X7-selective agonist BzATP caused astrocytes to become neurotoxic, inducing death of motor neurons. Involvement of P2X7 receptor was further confirmed by Brilliant blue G inhibition of ATP and BzATP effects. In SOD1G93A astrocyte cultures, pharmacological inhibition of P2X7 receptor or increased extracellular ATP degradation with the enzyme apyrase was sufficient to completely abolish their toxicity towards motor neurons. SOD1G93A astrocytes also displayed increased ATP-dependent proliferation and a basal increase in extracellular ATP degradation.
Here we found that P2X7 receptor activation in spinal cord astrocytes initiated a neurotoxic phenotype that leads to motor neuron death. Remarkably, the neurotoxic phenotype of SOD1G93A astrocytes depended upon basal activation the P2X7 receptor. Thus, pharmacological inhibition of P2X7 receptor might reduce neuroinflammation in ALS through astrocytes.
Background: The mechanism by which astrocytes contribute to disease progression in mutant SOD1 mouse models of ALS is not known.
Results: Mutant SOD1 astrocytes release mutant SOD1-containing exosomes that are toxic for motor neurons.
Conclusion: Astrocyte-derived exosomes may have a role in disease spreading and motor neuron pathology.
Significance: New therapeutic approaches should target exosomes to contain disease progression.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is the most common motor neuron disease and is still incurable. The mechanisms leading to the selective motor neuron vulnerability are still not known. The interplay between motor neurons and astrocytes is crucial in the outcome of the disease. We show that mutant copper-zinc superoxide dismutase (SOD1) overexpression in primary astrocyte cultures is associated with decreased levels of proteins involved in secretory pathways. This is linked to a general reduction of total secreted proteins, except for specific enrichment in a number of proteins in the media, such as mutant SOD1 and valosin-containing protein (VCP)/p97. Because there was also an increase in exosome release, we can deduce that astrocytes expressing mutant SOD1 activate unconventional secretory pathways, possibly as a protective mechanism. This may help limit the formation of intracellular aggregates and overcome mutant SOD1 toxicity. We also found that astrocyte-derived exosomes efficiently transfer mutant SOD1 to spinal neurons and induce selective motor neuron death. We conclude that the expression of mutant SOD1 has a substantial impact on astrocyte protein secretion pathways, contributing to motor neuron pathology and disease spread.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease); Astrocytes; Exosomes; Proteomics; Superoxide Dismutase (SOD); Disease Spreading
Meaningful body movements depend on the interplay between synaptic inputs to motoneurons and their intrinsic properties. Injury and disease often alter either or both of these factors and cause motoneuron and movement dysfunction. The ability of the motoneuronal membrane to generate persistent inward currents (PICs) is especially potent in setting the intrinsic excitability of motoneurons and can drastically change the motoneuron output to a given input. In this article, we review the role of PICs in modulating the excitability of spinal motoneurons during health, and their contribution to motoneuron excitability after spinal cord injury (SCI) and in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) leading to exaggerated long-lasting reflexes and muscle spasms, and contributing to neuronal degeneration, respectively.
Motor neuron; Motoneuron; Persistent inward current; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Spinal cord injury
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a fatal neurodegenerative disease caused by the loss of motoneurons. The precise molecular and cellular basis for neuronal death is not yet well established, but the contemporary view is that it is a culmination of multiple aberrant biological processes. Among the proposed mechanisms of motoneuron degeneration, alterations in the homeostasis of RNA binding proteins (RBP) and the consequent changes in RNA metabolism have received attention recently. The ribonuclease, angiogenin was one of the first RBPs associated with familial and sporadic ALS. It is enriched in motoneurons under physiological conditions, and is required for motoneuron survival under stress conditions. Furthermore, delivery of angiogenin protects cultured motoneurons against stress-induced injury, and significantly increases the survival of motoneurons in SODG93A mice. In this overview on the role of angiogenin in RNA metabolism and in the control of motoneuron survival, we discuss potential pathogenic mechanisms of angiogenin dysfunction relevant to ALS and other neurodegenerative disorders. We also discuss recent evidence demonstrating that angiogenin secreted from stressed motoneurons may alter RNA metabolism in astrocytes.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; RNA metabolism; angiogenin; RNA binding proteins; stress signals
Cellular homeostasis relies on a tight control of protein synthesis, folding and degradation, in which the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) quality control and the ubiquitin proteasome system (UPS) have an instrumental function. ER stress and aberrant accumulation of misfolded proteins represent a pathological signature of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a fatal paralytic disorder caused by the selective degeneration of motoneurons in the brain and spinal cord. Mutations in the ER-resident protein VAPB have been associated with familial forms of the disease. ALS-linked mutations cause VAPB to form cytoplasmic aggregates. We previously demonstrated that viral-mediated expression of both wildtype and mutant human VAPB (hVAPB) leads to an ER stress response that contributes to the selective death of motoneurons. However, the mechanisms behind ER stress, defective UPS and hVAPB-associated motoneuron degeneration remain elusive. Here, we show that the overexpression of wildtype and mutated hVAPB, which is found to be less stable than the wildtype protein, leads to the abnormal accumulation of ubiquitin and ubiquitin-like protein conjugates in non-human primate cells. We observed that overexpression of both forms of hVAPB elicited an ER stress response. Treatment of wildtype and mutated hVAPB expressing cells with the ER stress inhibitor salubrinal diminished the burden of ubiquitinated proteins, suggesting that ER stress contributes to the impairment of proteasome function. We also found that both wildtype and mutated hVAPB can associate with the 20S proteasome, which was found to accumulate at the ER with wildtype hVAPB or in mutant hVAPB aggregates. Our results suggest that ER stress and corruption of the proteasome function might contribute to the aberrant protein homeostasis associated with hVAPB.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is the third most common adult-onset neurodegenerative disease. It causes the degeneration of motoneurons and is fatal due to paralysis, particularly of respiratory muscles. ALS can be inherited, and specific disease-causing genes have been identified, but the mechanisms causing motoneuron death in ALS are not understood. No effective treatments exist for ALS. One well-studied theory of ALS pathogenesis involves faulty RNA editing and abnormal activation of specific glutamate receptors as well as failure of glutamate transport resulting in glutamate excitotoxicity; however, the excitotoxicity theory is challenged by the inability of anti-glutamate drugs to have major disease-modifying effects clinically. Nevertheless, hyperexcitability of upper and lower motoneurons is a feature of human ALS and transgenic (tg) mouse models of ALS. Motoneuron excitability is strongly modulated by synaptic inhibition mediated by presynaptic glycinergic and GABAergic innervations and postsynaptic glycine receptors (GlyR) and GABAA receptors; yet, the integrity of inhibitory systems regulating motoneurons has been understudied in experimental models, despite findings in human ALS suggesting that they may be affected. We have found in tg mice expressing a mutant form of human superoxide dismutase-1 (hSOD1) with a Gly93 → Ala substitution (G93A-hSOD1), causing familial ALS, that subsets of spinal interneurons degenerate. Inhibitory glycinergic innervation of spinal motoneurons becomes deficient before motoneuron degeneration is evident in G93A-hSOD1 mice. Motoneurons in these ALS mice also have insufficient synaptic inhibition as reflected by smaller GlyR currents, smaller GlyR clusters on their plasma membrane, and lower expression of GlyR1α mRNA compared to wild-type motoneurons. In contrast, GABAergic innervation of ALS mouse motoneurons and GABAA receptor function appear normal. Abnormal synaptic inhibition resulting from dysfunction of interneurons and motoneuron GlyRs is a new direction for unveiling mechanisms of ALS pathogenesis that could be relevant to new therapies for ALS.
Chloride channel; Glutamate receptor; Glycine receptor; Hb9-eGFP; Excitotoxicity; Hyperexcitability; Interneuron; Renshaw cell
Multiple deficits have been described in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), from the first changes in normal functioning of the motoneurons and glia to the eventual loss of spinal and cortical motoneurons. In this review, current results, including changes in size, and electrical properties of motoneurons, glutamate excitotoxicity, calcium buffering, deficits in mitochondrial and cellular transport, impediments to proteostasis which lead to stress of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), and glial contributions to motoneuronal vulnerability are recapitulated. Results are mainly drawn from the mutant SOD1 mouse model of ALS, and emphasis is placed on early changes that precede the onset of symptoms and the interplay between molecular and electrical processes.
Dominant mutations in superoxide dismutase cause amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), an adult-onset neurodegenerative disease characterized by loss of motor neurons. Using mice carrying a deletable mutant gene, diminished mutant expression in astrocytes did not affect onset, but delayed microglial activation and sharply slowed later disease progression. These findings demonstrate that mutant astrocytes are viable targets for therapies to slow progression of non-cell-autonomous killing of motor neurons in ALS.
The nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) governs the expression of antioxidant and phase II detoxifying enzymes. Nrf2 activation can prevent or reduce cellular damage associated with several types of injury in many different tissues and organs. Dominant mutations in Cu/Zn-superoxide dismutase (SOD1) cause familial forms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a fatal disorder characterized by the progressive loss of motor neurons and subsequent muscular atrophy. We have previously shown that Nrf2 activation in astrocytes delays neurodegeneration in ALS mouse models. To further investigate the role of Nrf2 in ALS we determined the effect of absence of Nrf2 or its restricted overexpression in neurons or type II skeletal muscle fibers on symptoms onset and survival in mutant hSOD1 expressing mice. We did not observe any detrimental effect associated with the lack of Nrf2 in two different mutant hSOD1 animal models of ALS. However, restricted Nrf2 overexpression in neurons or type II skeletal muscle fibers delayed disease onset but failed to extend survival in hSOD1G93A mice. These results highlight the concept that not only the pharmacological target but also the cell type targeted may be relevant when considering a Nrf2-mediated therapeutic approach for ALS.