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1.  Increased Axonal Ribosome Numbers Is an Early Event in the Pathogenesis of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e87255.
Myelinating glia cells support axon survival and functions through mechanisms independent of myelination, and their dysfunction leads to axonal degeneration in several diseases. In amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), spinal motor neurons undergo retrograde degeneration, and slowing of axonal transport is an early event that in ALS mutant mice occurs well before motor neuron degeneration. Interestingly, in familial forms of ALS, Schwann cells have been proposed to slow disease progression. We demonstrated previously that Schwann cells transfer polyribosomes to diseased and regenerating axons, a possible rescue mechanism for disease-induced reductions in axonal proteins. Here, we investigated whether elevated levels of axonal ribosomes are also found in ALS, by analysis of a superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1)G93A mouse model for human familial ALS and a patient suffering from sporadic ALS. In both cases, we found that the disorder was associated with an increase in the population of axonal ribosomes in myelinated axons. Importantly, in SOD1G93A mice, the appearance of axonal ribosomes preceded the manifestation of behavioral symptoms, indicating that upregulation of axonal ribosomes occurs early in the pathogenesis of ALS. In line with our previous studies, electron microscopy analysis showed that Schwann cells might serve as a source of axonal ribosomes in the disease-compromised axons. The early appearance of axonal ribosomes indicates an involvement of Schwann cells early in ALS neuropathology, and may serve as an early marker for disease-affected axons, not only in ALS, but also for other central and peripheral neurodegenerative disorders.
PMCID: PMC3907527  PMID: 24498056
2.  Molecular Signatures of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Disease Progression in Hind and Forelimb Muscles of an SOD1G93A Mouse Model 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2012;17(10):1333-1350.
Aims: This study utilized proteomics, biochemical and enzymatic assays, and bioinformatics tools that characterize protein alterations in hindlimb (gastrocnemius) and forelimb (triceps) muscles in an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) (SOD1G93A) mouse model. The aim of this study was to identify the key molecular signatures involved in disease progression. Results: Both muscle types have in common an early down-regulation of complex I. In the hindlimb, early increases in oxidative metabolism are associated with uncoupling of the respiratory chain, an imbalance of NADH/NAD+, and an increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. The NADH overflow due to complex I inactivation induces TCA flux perturbations, leading to citrate production, triggering fatty acid synthase (FAS), and lipid peroxidation. These early metabolic changes in the hindlimb followed by sustained and comparatively higher metabolic and cytoskeletal derangements over time precede and may catalyze the progressive muscle wasting in this muscle at the late stage. By contrast, in the forelimb, there is an early down-regulation of complexes I and II that is associated with the reduction of oxidative metabolism, which promotes metabolic homeostasis that is accompanied by a greater cytoskeletal stabilization response. However, these early compensatory systems diminish by a later time point. Innovation: The identification of potential early- and late-stage disease molecular signatures in an ALS model: muscle albumin, complex I, complex II, citrate synthase, FAS, and phosphoinositide 3-kinase functions as diagnostic markers and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ co-activator 1α (PGC1α), Sema-3A, and Rho-associated protein kinase 1 (ROCK1) play the role of disease progression markers. Conclusion: The differing pattern of cellular metabolism and cytoskeletal derangements in the hind and forelimb identifies the potential dysmetabolism/hypermetabolism molecular signatures associated with disease progression, which may serve as diagnostic/disease progression markers in ALS patients. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 17, 1333–1350.
PMCID: PMC3437050  PMID: 22563797
3.  A Mouse Model of Familial ALS Has Increased CNS Levels of Endogenous Ubiquinol9/10 and Does Not Benefit from Exogenous Administration of Ubiquinol10 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69540.
Oxidative stress and mitochondrial impairment are the main pathogenic mechanisms of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a severe neurodegenerative disease still lacking of effective therapy. Recently, the coenzyme-Q (CoQ) complex, a key component of mitochondrial function and redox-state modulator, has raised interest for ALS treatment. However, while the oxidized form ubiquinone10 was ineffective in ALS patients and modestly effective in mouse models of ALS, no evidence was reported on the effect of the reduced form ubiquinol10, which has better bioavailability and antioxidant properties. In this study we compared the effects of ubiquinone10 and a new stabilized formulation of ubiquinol10 on the disease course of SOD1G93A transgenic mice, an experimental model of fALS. Chronic treatments (800 mg/kg/day orally) started from the onset of disease until death, to mimic the clinical trials that only include patients with definite ALS symptoms. Although the plasma levels of CoQ10 were significantly increased by both treatments (from <0.20 to 3.0–3.4 µg/mL), no effect was found on the disease progression and survival of SOD1G93A mice. The levels of CoQ10 in the brain and spinal cord of ubiquinone10- or ubiquinol10-treated mice were only slightly higher (≤10%) than the endogenous levels in vehicle-treated mice, indicating poor CNS availability after oral dosing and possibly explaining the lack of pharmacological effects. To further examine this issue, we measured the oxidized and reduced forms of CoQ9/10 in the plasma, brain and spinal cord of symptomatic SOD1G93A mice, in comparison with age-matched SOD1WT. Levels of ubiquinol9/10, but not ubiquinone9/10, were significantly higher in the CNS, but not in plasma, of SOD1G93A mice, suggesting that CoQ redox system might participate in the mechanisms trying to counteract the pathology progression. Therefore, the very low increases of CoQ10 induced by oral treatments in CNS might be not sufficient to provide significant neuroprotection in SOD1G93A mice.
PMCID: PMC3720666  PMID: 23936040
4.  The Omega-3 Fatty Acid Eicosapentaenoic Acid Accelerates Disease Progression in a Model of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e61626.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive fatal neurodegenerative disease characterised by loss of motor neurons that currently has no cure. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), have many health benefits including neuroprotective and myoprotective potential. We tested the hypothesis that a high level of dietary EPA could exert beneficial effects in ALS. The dietary exposure to EPA (300 mg/kg/day) in a well-established mouse model of ALS expressing the G93A superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) mutation was initiated at a pre-symptomatic or symptomatic stage, and the disease progression was monitored until the end stage. Daily dietary EPA exposure initiated at the disease onset did not significantly alter disease presentation and progression. In contrast, EPA treatment initiated at the pre-symptomatic stage induced a significantly shorter lifespan. In a separate group of animals sacrificed before the end stage, the tissue analysis showed that the vacuolisation detected in G93A-SOD1 mice was significantly increased by exposure to EPA. Although EPA did not alter motor neurone loss, EPA reversed the significant increase in activated microglia and the astrocytic activation seen in G93A-SOD1 mice. The microglia in the spinal cord of G93A-SOD1 mice treated with EPA showed a significant increase in 4-hydroxy-2-hexenal, a highly toxic aldehydic oxidation product of omega-3 fatty acids. These data show that dietary EPA supplementation in ALS has the potential to worsen the condition and accelerate the disease progression. This suggests that great caution should be exerted when considering dietary omega-3 fatty acid supplements in ALS patients.
PMCID: PMC3631166  PMID: 23620776
5.  Mutant Copper-Zinc Superoxide Dismutase (SOD1) Induces Protein Secretion Pathway Alterations and Exosome Release in Astrocytes 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2013;288(22):15699-15711.
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.
PMCID: PMC3668729  PMID: 23592792
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease); Astrocytes; Exosomes; Proteomics; Superoxide Dismutase (SOD); Disease Spreading
6.  The anabolic/androgenic steroid nandrolone exacerbates gene expression modifications induced by mutant SOD1 in muscles of mice models of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 
Pharmacological Research  2012;65(2):221-230.
Graphical abstract
Anabolic/androgenic steroids (AAS) are drugs that enhance muscle mass, and are often illegally utilized in athletes to improve their performances. Recent data suggest that the increased risk for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in male soccer and football players could be linked to AAS abuse. ALS is a motor neuron disease mainly occurring in sporadic (sALS) forms, but some familial forms (fALS) exist and have been linked to mutations in different genes. Some of these, in their wild type (wt) form, have been proposed as risk factors for sALS, i.e. superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) gene, whose mutations are causative of about 20% of fALS. Notably, SOD1 toxicity might occur both in motor neurons and in muscle cells. Using gastrocnemius muscles of mice overexpressing human mutant SOD1 (mutSOD1) at different disease stages, we found that the expression of a selected set of genes associated to muscle atrophy, MyoD, myogenin, atrogin-1, and transforming growth factor (TGF)β1, is up-regulated already at the presymptomatic stage. Atrogin-1 gene expression was increased also in mice overexpressing human wtSOD1. Similar alterations were found in axotomized mouse muscles and in cultured ALS myoblast models. In these ALS models, we then evaluated the pharmacological effects of the synthetic AAS nandrolone on the expression of the genes modified in ALS muscle. Nandrolone administration had no effects on MyoD, myogenin, and atrogin-1 expression, but it significantly increased TGFβ1 expression at disease onset. Altogether, these data suggest that, in fALS, muscle gene expression is altered at early stages, and AAS may exacerbate some of the alterations induced by SOD1 possibly acting as a contributing factor also in sALS.
PMCID: PMC3272141  PMID: 22178654
Nandrolone; Anabolic steroids; Androgens; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Muscle; Motor neuron disease; TGFbeta1
7.  Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Multiprotein Biomarkers in Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e25545.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal progressive motor neuron disease, for which there are still no diagnostic/prognostic test and therapy. Specific molecular biomarkers are urgently needed to facilitate clinical studies and speed up the development of effective treatments.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We used a two-dimensional difference in gel electrophoresis approach to identify in easily accessible clinical samples, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), a panel of protein biomarkers that are closely associated with ALS. Validations and a longitudinal study were performed by immunoassays on a selected number of proteins. The same proteins were also measured in PBMC and spinal cord of a G93A SOD1 transgenic rat model. We identified combinations of protein biomarkers that can distinguish, with high discriminatory power, ALS patients from healthy controls (98%), and from patients with neurological disorders that may resemble ALS (91%), between two levels of disease severity (90%), and a number of translational biomarkers, that link responses between human and animal model. We demonstrated that TDP-43, cyclophilin A and ERp57 associate with disease progression in a longitudinal study. Moreover, the protein profile changes detected in peripheral blood mononuclear cells of ALS patients are suggestive of possible intracellular pathogenic mechanisms such as endoplasmic reticulum stress, nitrative stress, disturbances in redox regulation and RNA processing.
Our results indicate that PBMC multiprotein biomarkers could contribute to determine amyotrophic lateral sclerosis diagnosis, differential diagnosis, disease severity and progression, and may help to elucidate pathogenic mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3187793  PMID: 21998667
8.  Functional alterations of the ubiquitin-proteasome system in motor neurons of a mouse model of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis† 
Human Molecular Genetics  2008;18(1):82-96.
In familial and sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and in rodent models of the disease, alterations in the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) may be responsible for the accumulation of potentially harmful ubiquitinated proteins, leading to motor neuron death. In the spinal cord of transgenic mice expressing the familial ALS superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) gene mutation G93A (SOD1G93A), we found a decrease in constitutive proteasome subunits during disease progression, as assessed by real-time PCR and immunohistochemistry. In parallel, an increased immunoproteasome expression was observed, which correlated with a local inflammatory response due to glial activation. These findings support the existence of proteasome modifications in ALS vulnerable tissues. To functionally investigate the UPS in ALS motor neurons in vivo, we crossed SOD1G93A mice with transgenic mice that express a fluorescently tagged reporter substrate of the UPS. In double-transgenic UbG76V-GFP /SOD1G93A mice an increase in UbG76V-GFP reporter, indicative of UPS impairment, was detectable in a few spinal motor neurons and not in reactive astrocytes or microglia, at symptomatic stage but not before symptoms onset. The levels of reporter transcript were unaltered, suggesting that the accumulation of UbG76V-GFP was due to deficient reporter degradation. In some motor neurons the increase of UbG76V-GFP was accompanied by the accumulation of ubiquitin and phosphorylated neurofilaments, both markers of ALS pathology. These data suggest that UPS impairment occurs in motor neurons of mutant SOD1-linked ALS mice and may play a role in the disease progression.
PMCID: PMC3298865  PMID: 18826962
9.  Characterization of Detergent-Insoluble Proteins in ALS Indicates a Causal Link between Nitrative Stress and Aggregation in Pathogenesis 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(12):e8130.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive and fatal motor neuron disease, and protein aggregation has been proposed as a possible pathogenetic mechanism. However, the aggregate protein constituents are poorly characterized so knowledge on the role of aggregation in pathogenesis is limited.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We carried out a proteomic analysis of the protein composition of the insoluble fraction, as a model of protein aggregates, from familial ALS (fALS) mouse model at different disease stages. We identified several proteins enriched in the detergent-insoluble fraction already at a preclinical stage, including intermediate filaments, chaperones and mitochondrial proteins. Aconitase, HSC70 and cyclophilin A were also significantly enriched in the insoluble fraction of spinal cords of ALS patients. Moreover, we found that the majority of proteins in mice and HSP90 in patients were tyrosine-nitrated. We therefore investigated the role of nitrative stress in aggregate formation in fALS-like murine motor neuron-neuroblastoma (NSC-34) cell lines. By inhibiting nitric oxide synthesis the amount of insoluble proteins, particularly aconitase, HSC70, cyclophilin A and SOD1 can be substantially reduced.
Analysis of the insoluble fractions from cellular/mouse models and human tissues revealed novel aggregation-prone proteins and suggests that nitrative stress contribute to protein aggregate formation in ALS.
PMCID: PMC2780298  PMID: 19956584
10.  Talampanel reduces the level of motoneuronal calcium in transgenic mutant SOD1 mice only if applied presymptomatically 
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis  2011;12(5):340-344.
We tested the efficacy of treatment with talampanel in a mutant SOD1 mouse model of ALS by measuring intracellular calcium levels and loss of spinal motor neurons. We intended to mimic the clinical study; hence, treatment was started when the clinical symptoms were already present. The data were compared with the results of similar treatment started at a presymptomatic stage. Transgenic and wild-type mice were treated either with talampanel or with vehicle, starting in pre-symptomatic or symptomatic stages. The density of motor neurons was determined by the physical disector, and their intracellular calcium level was assayed electron microscopically. Results showed that motor neurons in the SOD1 mice exhibited an elevated calcium level, which could be reduced, but not restored, with talampanel only when the treatment was started presymptomatically. Treatment in either presymptomatic or symptomatic stages failed to rescue the motor neurons. We conclude that talampanel reduces motoneuronal calcium in a mouse model of ALS, but its efficacy declines as the disease progresses, suggesting that medication initiation in the earlier stages of the disease might be more effective.
PMCID: PMC3231880  PMID: 21623665
Talampanel; AMPA receptor; mSODl model; intracellular calcium; motor neuron

Results 1-10 (10)