Modeling Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease In Vitro by Transfecting Mouse Primary Motoneurons

This article has been accepted and is currently in production


Neurodegeneration of spinal motoneurons (MNs) is implicated in a large spectrum of neurological disorders including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, and spinal muscular atrophy, which are all associated with muscular atrophy. Primary cultures of spinal MNs have been used widely to demonstrate the involvement of specific genes in such diseases and characterize the cellular consequences of their mutations. This protocol models a primary MN culture derived from the seminal work of Henderson and colleagues more than twenty years ago. First, we detail a method of dissecting the anterior horns of the spinal cord from a mouse embryo and isolating the MNs from neighboring cells using a density gradient. Then, we present a new way of efficiently transfecting MNs with expression plasmids using magnetofection. Finally, we illustrate how to fix and immunostain primary MNs. Using neurofilament mutations that cause Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease type 2, this protocol demonstrates a qualitative approach to expressing proteins of interest and studying their involvement in MN growth, maintenance, and survival.