Growing evidence indicates that alterations within the peripheral nervous system (PNS) are involved at an early stage in the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) pathogenetic cascade. In this study, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), neurophysiologic analyses, and histologic analyses were used to monitor the extent of PNS damage in the hSOD-1 ALS rat model. The imaging signature of the disease was defined using in vivo MRI of the sciatic nerve. Initial abnormalities were detected in the nerves by an increase in T2 relaxation time before the onset of clinical disease; diffusion MRI showed a progressive increase in mean and radial diffusivity and reduction of fractional anisotropy at advanced stages of disease. Histologic analysis demonstrated early impairment of the blood-nerve barrier followed by acute axonal degeneration associated with endoneurial edema and macrophage response in motor nerve compartments. Progressive axonal degeneration and motor nerve fiber loss correlated with MRI and neurophysiologic changes. These functional and morphologic investigations of the PNS might be applied in following disease progression in preclinical therapeutic studies. This study establishes the PNS signature in this rat ALS model (shedding new light into pathogenesis) and provides a rationale for translating into future systematic MRI studies of PNS involvement in patients with ALS.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a disease of variable severity in terms of speed of progression of the disease course. We found a similar variability in disease onset and progression of 2 familial ALS mouse strains, despite the fact that they carry the same transgene copy number and express the same amount of mutant SOD1G93A messenger RNA and protein in the central nervous system. Comparative analysis of 2 SOD1G93A mouse strains highlights differences associated with the disease severity that are unrelated to the degree of motor neuron loss but that appear to promote early dysfunction of these cells linked to protein aggregation. Features of fast progressing phenotype are (1) abundant protein aggregates containing mutant SOD1 and multiple chaperones; (2) low basal expression of the chaperone alpha-B-crystallin (CRYAB) and ?5 subunits of proteasome; and (3) downregulation of proteasome subunit expression at disease onset. In contrast, high levels of functional chaperones such as cyclophillin-A and CRYAB, combined with delayed alteration of expression of proteasome subunits and the sequestration of TDP43 into aggregates, are features associated with a more slowly progressing pathology. These data support the hypothesis that impairment of protein homeostasis caused by low-soluble chaperone levels, together with malfunction of the proteasome degradation machinery, contributes to accelerate motor neuron dysfunction and progression of disease symptoms. Therefore, modulating the activity of these systems could represent a rational therapeutic strategy for slowing down disease progression in SOD1-related ALS.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive, fatal neurodegenerative disease caused by the degeneration of motor neurons. The transgenic mouse model carrying the human SOD1G93A mutant gene (hSOD1G93A mouse) represents one of the most reliable and widely used model of this pathology. In the present work, the innovative technique of matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) imaging mass spectrometry (IMS) was applied in the study of pathological alterations at the level of small brain regions such as facial and trigeminal nuclei, which in rodents are extremely small and would be difficult to analyze with classical proteomics approaches. Comparing slices from three mice groups (transgenic hSOD1G93A, transgenic hSOD1WT, and nontransgenic, Ntg), this technique allowed us to evidence the accumulation of hSOD1G93A in the facial and trigeminal nuclei, where it generates aggregates. This phenomenon is likely to be correlated to the degeneration observed in these regions. Moreover, a statistical analysis allowed us to highlight other proteins as differentially expressed among the three mice groups analyzed. Some of them were identified by reverse-phase HPLC fractionation of extracted proteins and mass spectrometric analysis before and after trypsin digestion. In particular, the 40S ribosomal protein S19 (RPS19) was upregulated in the parenkyma and reactive glial cells in facial nuclei of hSOD1G93A mice when compared to transgenic hSOD1WT and nontransgenic ones.
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 SOD1(G93A) 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.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is heterogeneous with high variability in the speed of progression even in cases with a defined genetic cause such as superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) mutations. We reported that SOD1(G93A) mice on distinct genetic backgrounds (C57 and 129Sv) show consistent phenotypic differences in speed of disease progression and life-span that are not explained by differences in human SOD1 transgene copy number or the burden of mutant SOD1 protein within the nervous system. We aimed to compare the gene expression profiles of motor neurons from these two SOD1(G93A) mouse strains to discover the molecular mechanisms contributing to the distinct phenotypes and to identify factors underlying fast and slow disease progression. Lumbar spinal motor neurons from the two SOD1(G93A) mouse strains were isolated by laser capture microdissection and transcriptome analysis was conducted at four stages of disease. We identified marked differences in the motor neuron transcriptome between the two mice strains at disease onset, with a dramatic reduction of gene expression in the rapidly progressive (129Sv-SOD1(G93A)) compared with the slowly progressing mutant SOD1 mice (C57-SOD1(G93A)) (1276 versus 346; Q-value ? 0.01). Gene ontology pathway analysis of the transcriptional profile from 129Sv-SOD1(G93A) mice showed marked downregulation of specific pathways involved in mitochondrial function, as well as predicted deficiencies in protein degradation and axonal transport mechanisms. In contrast, the transcriptional profile from C57-SOD1(G93A) mice with the more benign disease course, revealed strong gene enrichment relating to immune system processes compared with 129Sv-SOD1(G93A) mice. Motor neurons from the more benign mutant strain demonstrated striking complement activation, over-expressing genes normally involved in immune cell function. We validated through immunohistochemistry increased expression of the C3 complement subunit and major histocompatibility complex I within motor neurons. In addition, we demonstrated that motor neurons from the slowly progressing mice activate a series of genes with neuroprotective properties such as angiogenin and the nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2 transcriptional regulator. In contrast, the faster progressing mice show dramatically reduced expression at disease onset of cell pathways involved in neuroprotection. This study highlights a set of key gene and molecular pathway indices of fast or slow disease progression which may prove useful in identifying potential disease modifiers responsible for the heterogeneity of human amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and which may represent valid therapeutic targets for ameliorating the disease course in humans.
Evidence is accumulating that an imbalance between pathways for degeneration or survival in motor neurons may play a central role in mechanisms that lead to neurodegeneration in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). We and other groups have observed that downregulation, or lack of induction, of the PI3K/Akt prosurvival pathway may be responsible for defective response of motor neurons to injury and their consequent cellular demise. Some of the neuroprotective effects mediated by growth factors may involve activation of Akt, but a proof of concept of Akt as a target for therapy is lacking. We demonstrate that specific expression of constitutively activated Akt3 in motor neurons through the use of the promoter of homeobox gene Hb9 prevents neuronal loss induced by SOD1.G93A both in vitro (in mixed neuron/astrocyte cocultures) and in vivo (in a mouse model of ALS). Inhibition of ASK1 and GSK3beta was involved in the neuroprotective effects of activated Akt3, further supporting the hypothesis that induction of Akt3 may be a key step in activation of pathways for survival in the attempt to counteract motor neuronal degeneration in ALS.
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.
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 SOD1(G93A) 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 SOD1(G93A) 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 SOD1(G93A) mice, in comparison with age-matched SOD1(WT). Levels of ubiquinol9/10, but not ubiquinone9/10, were significantly higher in the CNS, but not in plasma, of SOD1(G93A) 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 SOD1(G93A) mice.
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.
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)?1, 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 TGF?1 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.
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.
NAD(+) synthesizing enzyme NMNAT1 constitutes most of the sequence of neuroprotective protein Wld(S), which delays axon degeneration by 10-fold. NMNAT1 activity is necessary but not sufficient for Wld(S) neuroprotection in mice and 70 amino acids at the N-terminus of Wld(S), derived from polyubiquitination factor Ube4b, enhance axon protection by NMNAT1. NMNAT1 activity can confer neuroprotection when redistributed outside the nucleus or when highly overexpressed in vitro and partially in Drosophila. However, the role of endogenous NMNAT1 in normal axon maintenance and in Wallerian degeneration has not been elucidated yet. To address this question we disrupted the Nmnat1 locus by gene targeting. Homozygous Nmnat1 knockout mice do not survive to birth, indicating that extranuclear NMNAT isoforms cannot compensate for its loss. Heterozygous Nmnat1 knockout mice develop normally and do not show spontaneous neurodegeneration or axon pathology. Wallerian degeneration after sciatic nerve lesion is neither accelerated nor delayed in these mice, consistent with the proposal that other endogenous NMNAT isoforms play a principal role in Wallerian degeneration.
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 presymptomatic 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.
The ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) is the major intracellular proteolytic mechanism controlling the degradation of misfolded/abnormal proteins. A common hallmark in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and in other neurodegenerative disorders is the accumulation of misfolded/abnormal proteins into the damaged neurons, leading to the formation of cellular inclusions that are mostly ubiquitin-positive. Although proteolysis is a complex mechanism requiring the participation of different pathways, the abundant accumulation of ubiquitinated proteins strongly suggests an important contribution of UPS to these neuropathological features. The use of cellular and animal models of ALS, particularly those expressing mutant SOD1, the gene mutation most represented in familiar ALS, has provided significant evidence for a role of UPS in protein inclusions formation and motor neuron death. This review will specifically discuss this piece of evidence and provide suggestions of potential strategies for therapeutic intervention. We will also discuss the finding that, unlike the constitutive proteasome subunits, the inducible subunits are overexpressed early during disease progression in SOD1 mice models of ALS. These subunits form the immunoproteasome and generate peptides for the major histocompatibility complex class I molecules, suggesting a role of this system in the immune responses associated with the pathological features of ALS. Since recent discoveries indicate that innate and adaptive immunity may influence the disease process, in this review we will also provide evidence of a possible connection between immune-inflammatory reactions and UPS function, in the attempt to better understand the etiopathology of ALS and to identify appropriate targets for novel treatment strategies of this devastating disease.
Granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) induces a transient mobilization of hematopoietic progenitor cells from bone marrow to peripheral blood. Our aim was to evaluate safety of repeated courses of G-CSF in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), assessing disease progression and changes in chemokine and cytokine levels in serum and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Twenty-four ALS patients entered an open-label, multicenter trial in which four courses of G-CSF and mannitol were administered at 3-month intervals. Levels of G-CSF were increased after treatment in the serum and CSF. Few and transitory adverse events were observed. No significant reduction of the mean monthly decrease in ALSFRS-R score and forced vital capacity was observed. A significant reduction in CSF levels of monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1) and interleukin-17 (IL-17) was observed. G-CSF treatment was safe and feasible in a multicenter series of ALS patients. A decrease in the CSF levels of proinflammatory cytokines MCP-1 and IL-17 was found, indicating a G-CSF-induced central anti-inflammatory response.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease characterized by the progressive loss of upper and lower motor neurons. As with other age-dependent neurodegenerative disorders, ALS is linked to the presence of misfolded proteins that may perturb several intracellular mechanisms and trigger neurotoxicity. Misfolded proteins aggregate intracellularly generating insoluble inclusions that are a key neuropathological hallmark of ALS. Proteins involved in the intracellular degradative systems, signaling pathways and the human TAR DNA-binding protein TDP-43 are major components of these inclusions. While their role and cytotoxicity are still largely debated, aggregates represent a powerful marker to follow protein misfolding in the neurodegenerative processes. Using in vitro and in vivo models of mutant SOD1 associated familial ALS (fALS), we and other groups demonstrated that protein misfolding perturbs one of the major intracellular degradative pathways, the ubiquitin proteasome system, giving rise to a vicious cycle that leads to the further deposit of insoluble proteins and finally to the formation of inclusions. The aberrant response to mutated SOD1 thus leads to the activation of the cascade of events ultimately responsible for cell death. Hence, our idea is that, by assisting protein folding, we might reduce protein aggregation, restore a fully functional proteasome activity and/or other cascades of events triggered by the mutant proteins responsible for motor neuron death in ALS. This could be obtained by stimulating mutant protein turnover, using an alternative degradative pathway that could clear mutant SOD1, namely autophagy.
Several neurodegenerative diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), are characterized by the presence of misfolded proteins, thought to trigger neurotoxicity. Some familial forms of ALS (fALS), clinically indistinguishable from sporadic ALS (sALS), are linked to superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) gene mutations. It has been shown that the mutant SOD1 misfolds, forms insoluble aggregates and impairs the proteasome. Using transgenic G93A-SOD1 mice, we found that spinal cord motor neurons, accumulating mutant SOD1 also over-express the small heat shock protein HspB8. Using motor neuronal fALS models, we demonstrated that HspB8 decreases aggregation and increases mutant SOD1 solubility and clearance, without affecting wild-type SOD1 turnover. Notably, HspB8 acts on mutant SOD1 even when the proteasome activity is specifically blocked. The pharmacological blockage of autophagy resulted in a dramatic increase of mutant SOD1 aggregates. Immunoprecipitation studies, performed during autophagic flux blockage, demonstrated that mutant SOD1 interacts with the HspB8/Bag3/Hsc70/CHIP multiheteromeric complex, known to selectively activate autophagic removal of misfolded proteins. Thus, HspB8 increases mutant SOD1 clearance via autophagy. Autophagy activation was also observed in lumbar spinal cord of transgenic G93A-SOD1 mice since several autophago-lysosomal structures were present in affected surviving motor neurons. Finally, we extended our observation to a different ALS model and demonstrated that HspB8 exerts similar effects on a truncated version of TDP-43, another protein involved both in fALS and in sALS. Overall, these results indicate that the pharmacological modulation of HspB8 expression in motor neurons may have important implications to unravel the molecular mechanisms involved both in fALS and in sALS.
The development of therapeutics for ALS/MND is largely based on work in experimental animals carrying human SOD mutations. However, translation of apparent therapeutic successes from in vivo to the human disease has proven difficult and a considerable amount of financial resources has been apparently wasted. Standard operating procedures (SOPs) for preclinical animal research in ALS/MND are urgently required. Such SOPs will help to establish SOPs for translational research for other neurological diseases within the next few years. To identify the challenges and to improve the research methodology, the European ALS/MND group held a meeting in 2006 and published guidelines in 2007 (1). A second international conference to improve the guidelines was held in 2009. These second and improved guidelines are dedicated to the memory of Sean F. Scott.
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.
It has been shown that chronic treatment with lithium carbonate (Li(2)CO(3)) in presymptomatic SOD1G93A transgenic male mice, a model of ALS, was able to remarkably increase their lifespan through the activation of autophagy and the promotion of mitochondriogenesis and neurogenesis. This prompted us to test the lithium effect also in female SOD1G93A mice with two phenotypes of different disease severity. Female SOD1G93A mice of C57BL/6J or 129S2/Sv genetic background were treated daily with Li(2)CO(3) 37 mg/kg (1 mEq/kg) i.p. starting from age 75 days until death. Grip strength, latency to fall on rotarod and body weight were monitored twice weekly. At the time of death the spinal cord was removed to assess the number of motor neurons and to measure the expression of a marker of autophagy (LCII) and the activity of mitochondrial complex IV. We observed a significant anticipation of the onset and reduced survival in 129Sv/G93A and no effect in C57/G93A mice treated with lithium compared to vehicle treated mice. Moreover, lithium neither exerted neuroprotective effects nor increased the expression of LCII and the activity of mitochondrial complex IV in the spinal cord. The present study does not identify any therapeutic or neuroprotective effect of lithium in SOD1G93A female mice.
Increased levels of 3-nitrotyrosine in the central nervous system have been found in patients and mouse models of familial ALS (fALS), suggesting a possible use of nitrated proteins as biomarkers. We analyzed peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), easily accessible samples, from sporadic ALS (sALS) patients and a rat model of fALS (a) to establish whether an increased level of nitrated proteins was present in PBMCs, too, and (b) to identify possible candidate biomarkers. With a proteomic approach, we identified for the first time the major overnitrated proteins in PBMCs from patients and rats at different disease stages. In the rats, their increased levels already were measured at a presymptomatic stage. Among them, actin, ATP synthase, and vinculin overlap between sALS patients and the rat model. Interestingly, in a previous study, actin and ATPase have been found overnitrated in the spinal cord of a mouse model of fALS before disease onset, suggesting their possible involvement in motor neuron degeneration. In conclusion, we observed that an increased level of nitrated proteins was not restricted to the spinal cord but also was present in peripheral cells of patients and an animal model, and that nitrated proteins are promising candidate biomarkers for early diagnosis of ALS.
In this work we show that patients with sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis exhibit immunological alterations in their blood, with respect to healthy controls, such as: i) increased levels of CD4+ cells and decreased levels of CD8+ T lymphocytes, the latter due to the reduced expression of the anti-apoptotic molecule Bcl-2; ii) significantly reduced CD4+CD25+ regulatory T (Treg) cells and monocytes (CD14+) levels in patients at a less severe stage of disease, suggesting their early recruitment towards the CNS area of primary neurodegeneration; iii) reduced expression of HLA-DR and CCR2 expression, as markers of activation, in monocytes. Since resident microglia partially derives from circulating activated monocytes and Treg cells are known to interact with the local microglia, this study strengthens the hypothesis of an involvement of the adaptive immune system associated with a neuroinflammatory process in the pathobiology of ALS.
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 Ub(G76V)-GFP /SOD1G93A mice an increase in Ub(G76V)-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 Ub(G76V)-GFP was due to deficient reporter degradation. In some motor neurons the increase of Ub(G76V)-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.
The pathophysiology of cerebral cortical lesions in multiple sclerosis (MS) is not understood. We investigated cerebral cortex microvessels during immune-mediated demyelination in the MS model chronic murine experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) by immunolocalization of the endothelial cell tight junction (TJ) integral proteins claudin-5 and occludin, a structural protein of caveolae, caveolin-1, and the blood-brain barrier-specific endothelial transporter, Glut 1. In EAE-affected mice, there were areas of extensive subpial demyelination and well-demarcated lesions that extended to deeper cortical layers. Activation of microglia and absence of perivascular inflammatory infiltrates were common in these areas. Microvascular endothelial cells showed increased expression of caveolin-1 and a coincident loss of both claudin-5 and occludin normal junctional staining patterns. At a very early disease stage, claudin-5 molecules tended to cluster and form vacuoles that were also Glut 1 positive; the initially preserved occludin pattern became diffusely cytoplasmic at more advanced stages. Possible internalization of claudin-5 on TJ dismantling was suggested by its coexpression with the autophagosomal marker MAP1LC3A. Loss of TJ integrity was confirmed by fluorescein isothiocyanate-dextran experiments that showed leakage of the tracer into the perivascular neuropil. These observations indicate that, in the cerebral cortex of EAE-affected mice, there is a microvascular disease that differentially targets claudin-5 and occludin during ongoing demyelination despite only minimal inflammation.
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) (SOD1(G93A)) mouse model. The aim of this study was to identify the key molecular signatures involved in disease progression.
Neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses (NCLs) are a group of lysosomal storage diseases characterized by neurological impairment and blindness. NCLs are almost always due to single mutations in different genes (CLN1-CLN8). Ubiquitous accumulation of undigested material and of a hydrophobic inner mitochondrial membrane protein, the subunit c of mitochondrial ATP synthase, has been described. Although protein mutation(s) in the endoplasmic reticulum-lysosomes axis can modify the trafficking and the recycling of different molecules, one of the upstream targets in these diseases may be represented by the balance of gene expression. To understand if and how neurons modify the levels of important genes during the first phases of the disease, it is important to characterize the mechanisms of neurodegeneration. Due to the impossibility of performing this analysis in humans, alternative models of investigation are required. In this study, a mouse model of human NCL8, the mnd mouse has been employed. The mnd mice recapitulate many clinical and histopathological features described in NCL8 patients. In this study, we found an altered expression of different genes in both central and peripheral organs associated with lipopigment accumulation. This is a preliminary approach, which could also be of interest in providing new diagnostic tools for NCLs.
Recombinant lentiviral vectors (rLVs) have emerged as versatile tools for gene delivery applications due to a number of favorable features, such as the possibility to maintain long-term transgene expression, the flexibility in the design of the expression cassettes and recent improvements in their biosafety profile. Since rLVs are able to infect multiple cell types including post-mitotic cells such as neurons and skeletal muscle cells, several studies have been exploring their application for the study and cure of neurodegenerative diseases. In particular, the introduction of rLVs carrying cell-type specific promoters could restrict the transgene expression either to neuronal or glial cells, thus helping to better dissect in vivo the role played by these cell populations in several neurodegenerative processes. In this study we developed rLVs carrying motor neuron specific regulatory sequences derived from the promoter of homeobox gene Hb9, and demonstrated that these constructs can represent a suitable platform for selective gene-targeting of murine spinal cord motor neurons, in vivo. This tool could be instrumental in the dissection of the molecular mechanisms involved in the selective degeneration of motor neurons occurring in Motor Neuron Diseases.
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