Distinct roles for motor neuron autophagy early and late in the SOD1G93A mouse model of ALS.
ABSTRACT: Mutations in autophagy genes can cause familial and sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). However, the role of autophagy in ALS pathogenesis is poorly understood, in part due to the lack of cell type-specific manipulations of this pathway in animal models. Using a mouse model of ALS expressing mutant superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1G93A), we show that motor neurons form large autophagosomes containing ubiquitinated aggregates early in disease progression. To investigate whether this response is protective or detrimental, we generated mice in which the critical autophagy gene Atg7 was specifically disrupted in motor neurons (Atg7 cKO). Atg7 cKO mice were viable but exhibited structural and functional defects at a subset of vulnerable neuromuscular junctions. By crossing Atg7 cKO mice to the SOD1G93A mouse model, we found that autophagy inhibition accelerated early neuromuscular denervation of the tibialis anterior muscle and the onset of hindlimb tremor. Surprisingly, however, lifespan was extended in Atg7 cKO; SOD1G93A double-mutant mice. Autophagy inhibition did not prevent motor neuron cell death, but it reduced glial inflammation and blocked activation of the stress-related transcription factor c-Jun in spinal interneurons. We conclude that motor neuron autophagy is required to maintain neuromuscular innervation early in disease but eventually acts in a non-cell-autonomous manner to promote disease progression.
Project description:To investigate the role of motor neuron autophagy in ALS, we generated mice in which the critical autophagy gene Atg7 was specifically disrupted in motor neurons (Atg7 cKO). We also bred these mice to the SOD1G93A mouse model of ALS. Then we performed RNA sequencing on lumbar spinal cords from these mice to determine how motor neuron autophagy inhibition altered gene expression. Overall design: RNA-seq of lumbar spinal cords from four biological replicates each of 150 day-old Atg7 cWT, Atg7 cWT; SOD1G93A, Atg7 cKO and Atg7 cKO; SOD1G93A mice
Project description:Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is an untreatable, progressive, neurodegenerative disease specifically affecting motor neurons. Recently, the tyrosine kinase receptor EphA4 was directly implicated in ALS disease progression. We report that a long-lived mutated form of the EphA4 antagonist EphA4-Fc (mutEphA4-Fc), which blocks EphA4 binding to its ligands and inhibits its function, significantly improved functional performance in SOD1G93A ALS model mice, as assessed by rotarod and hind-limb grip strength tests. Further, heterozygous motor neuron-specific EphA4 gene deletion in SOD1G93A mice promoted significant improvement in functional performance during the disease course and a delay in disease onset relative to control mice. Importantly, mice in the heterozygous deletion group showed significantly improved survival of motor neurons and architecture of endplates of neuromuscular junctions compared with control and homozygous EphA4-deletion groups. Our novel results show that EphA4 signalling directly regulates motor neuron survival and that mutEphA4-Fc is a promising therapeutic candidate to slow disease progression in ALS.
Project description:Evidence suggests that protein misfolding is crucially involved in the pathogenesis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). However, controversy still exists regarding the involvement of proteasomes or autophagy in ALS due to previous conflicting results. Here, we show that impairment of the ubiquitin-proteasome system, but not the autophagy-lysosome system in motor neurons replicates ALS in mice. Conditional knock-out mice of the proteasome subunit Rpt3 in a motor neuron-specific manner (Rpt3-CKO) showed locomotor dysfunction accompanied by progressive motor neuron loss and gliosis. Moreover, diverse ALS-linked proteins, including TAR DNA-binding protein 43 kDa (TDP-43), fused in sarcoma (FUS), ubiquilin 2, and optineurin were mislocalized or accumulated in motor neurons, together with other typical ALS hallmarks such as basophilic inclusion bodies. On the other hand, motor neuron-specific knock-out of Atg7, a crucial component for the induction of autophagy (Atg7-CKO), only resulted in cytosolic accumulation of ubiquitin and p62, and no TDP-43 or FUS pathologies or motor dysfunction was observed. These results strongly suggest that proteasomes, but not autophagy, fundamentally govern the development of ALS in which TDP-43 and FUS proteinopathy may play a crucial role. Enhancement of proteasome activity may be a promising strategy for the treatment of ALS.
Project description:Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease affecting both the upper and lower motor neurons (MNs), with no effective treatment currently available. Early pathological events in ALS include perturbations in axonal transport (AT), formation of toxic protein aggregates and Neuromuscular Junction (NMJ) disruption, which all lead to axonal degeneration and motor neuron death. Pridopidine is a small molecule that has been clinically developed for Huntington disease. Here we tested the efficacy of pridopidine for ALS using in vitro and in vivo models. Pridopidine beneficially modulates AT deficits and diminishes NMJ disruption, as well as motor neuron death in SOD1G93A MNs and in neuromuscular co-cultures. Furthermore, we demonstrate that pridopidine activates the ERK pathway and mediates its beneficial effects through the sigma-1 receptor (S1R). Strikingly, in vivo evaluation of pridopidine in SOD1G93A mice reveals a profound reduction in mutant SOD1 aggregation in the spinal cord, and attenuation of NMJ disruption, as well as subsequent muscle wasting. Taken together, we demonstrate for the first time that pridopidine improves several cellular and histological hallmark pathologies of ALS through the S1R.
Project description:Accumulating evidence suggests that neuroinflammatory processes are implicated in the initiation and progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Previous reports have demonstrated an increase in microgliosis and astrogliosis in the lumbar spinal cord of SOD1G93A transgenic mice before the onset of symptoms, a neuroinflammatory response which correlated with disease progression. Importantly, early stage homeostatic microglia enhanced motor neuron survival, while pro-inflammatory microglia were toxic to motor neurons in the SOD1G93A mice. Recent studies from our group have demonstrated that cromolyn sodium, an FDA approved compound, exerts neuroprotective effects in mouse models of Alzheimer's disease by altering microglial cell activation. Here, we tested the neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects of cromolyn sodium in the SOD1G93A mouse model of ALS. Our results indicate that cromolyn sodium treatment significantly delayed the onset of neurological symptoms, and improved deficits in PaGE performance in both male and female mice, however, there was only an effect on survival in female mice. Furthermore, there was a significant increase in motor neuron survival in the lumbar spinal cord as well as a significant decrease in the denervation of the neuromuscular junction of the tibialis anterior muscle in cromolyn treated transgenic SOD1G93A mice. Lastly, cromolyn treatment decreased the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines/chemokines in the lumbar spinal cord and plasma and decreased mast cell degranulation in the tibialis anterior muscle of transgenic SOD1G93A mice. Together, these findings suggest that cromolyn sodium provides neuroprotection in the SOD1G93A mice by decreasing the inflammatory response.
Project description:Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a degenerative motor neuron disease, causing muscle paralysis and death from respiratory failure. Effective means to preserve/restore ventilation are necessary to increase the quality and duration of life in ALS patients. At disease end-stage in a rat ALS model (SOD1G93A ), acute intermittent hypoxia (AIH) restores phrenic nerve activity to normal levels via enhanced phrenic long-term facilitation (pLTF). Mechanisms enhancing pLTF in end-stage SOD1G93A rats are not known. Moderate AIH-induced pLTF is normally elicited via cellular mechanisms that require the following: Gq-protein-coupled 5-HT2 receptor activation, new BDNF synthesis, and MEK/ERK signaling (the Q pathway). In contrast, severe AIH elicits pLTF via a distinct mechanism that requires the following: Gs-protein-coupled adenosine 2A receptor activation, new TrkB synthesis, and PI3K/Akt signaling (the S pathway). In end-stage male SOD1G93A rats and wild-type littermates, we investigated relative Q versus S pathway contributions to enhanced pLTF via intrathecal (C4) delivery of small interfering RNAs targeting BDNF or TrkB mRNA, and MEK/ERK (U0126) or PI3 kinase/Akt (PI828) inhibitors. In anesthetized, paralyzed and ventilated rats, moderate AIH-induced pLTF was abolished by siBDNF and UO126, but not siTrkB or PI828, demonstrating that enhanced pLTF occurs via the Q pathway. Although phrenic motor neuron numbers were decreased in end-stage SOD1G93A rats (?30% survival; p < 0.001), BDNF and phosphorylated ERK expression were increased in spared phrenic motor neurons (p < 0.05), consistent with increased Q-pathway contributions to pLTF. Our results increase understanding of respiratory plasticity and its potential to preserve/restore breathing capacity in ALS.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Since neuromuscular disorders, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), end life via respiratory failure, the ability to harness respiratory motor plasticity to improve breathing capacity could increase the quality and duration of life. In a rat ALS model (SOD1G93A ) we previously demonstrated that spinal respiratory motor plasticity elicited by acute intermittent hypoxia is enhanced at disease end-stage, suggesting greater potential to preserve/restore breathing capacity. Here we demonstrate that enhanced intermittent hypoxia-induced phrenic motor plasticity results from amplification of normal cellular mechanisms versus addition/substitution of alternative mechanisms. Greater understanding of mechanisms underlying phrenic motor plasticity in ALS may guide development of new therapies to preserve and/or restore breathing in ALS patients.
Project description:While the death of motor neuron is a pathological hallmark of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), defects in other cell types or organs may also actively contribute to ALS disease progression. ALS patients experience progressive skeletal muscle wasting that may not only exacerbate neuronal degeneration, but likely has a significant impact on bone function. In our previous published study, we have discovered severe bone loss in an ALS mouse model with overexpression of ALS-associated mutation SOD1G93A (G93A). Here we further provide a mechanistic understanding of the bone loss in ALS animal and cellular models. Combining mitochondrial fluorescent indicators and confocal live cell imaging, we discovered abnormalities in mitochondrial network and dynamics in primary osteocytes derived from the same ALS mouse model G93A. Those mitochondrial defects occur in ALS mice after the onset of neuromuscular symptoms, indicating that mitochondria in bone cells respond to muscle atrophy during ALS disease progression. To examine whether ALS mutation has a direct contribution to mitochondrial dysfunction independent of muscle atrophy, we evaluated mitochondrial morphology and motility in cultured osteocytes (MLO-Y4) with overexpression of mitochondrial targeted SOD1G93A. Compared with osteocytes overexpressing the wild type SOD1 as a control, the SOD1G93A osteocytes showed similar defects in mitochondrial network and dynamic as that of the primary osteocytes derived from the ALS mouse model. In addition, we further discovered that overexpression of SOD1G93A enhanced the expression level of dynamin-related protein 1 (Drp1), a key protein promoting mitochondrial fission activity, and reduced the expression level of optic atrophy protein 1 (OPA1), a key protein related to mitochondrial fusion. A specific mitochondrial fission inhibitor (Mdivi-1) partially reversed the effect of SOD1G93A on mitochondrial network and dynamics, indicating that SOD1G93A likely promotes mitochondrial fission, but suppresses the fusion activity. Our data provide the first evidence that mitochondria show abnormality in osteocytes derived from an ALS mouse model. The accumulation of mutant SOD1G93A protein inside mitochondria directly causes dysfunction in mitochondrial dynamics in cultured MLO-Y4 osteocytes. In addition, the ALS mutation SOD1G93A-mediated dysfunction in mitochondrial dynamics is associated with an enhanced apoptosis in osteocytes, which could be a potential mechanism underlying the bone loss during ALS progression.
Project description:An increasing number of studies have demonstrated the beneficial effects of human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSC) in the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). We compared the effect of repeated intrathecal applications of hMSC or their conditioned medium (CondM) using lumbar puncture or injection into the muscle (quadriceps femoris), or a combination of both applications in symptomatic SOD1G93A rats. We further assessed the effect of the treatment on three major cell death pathways (necroptosis, apoptosis, and autophagy) in the spinal cord tissue. All the animals were behaviorally tested (grip strength test, Basso Beattie Bresnahan (BBB) test, and rotarod), and the tissue was analyzed immunohistochemically, by qPCR and Western blot. All symptomatic SOD1 rats treated with hMSC had a significantly increased lifespan, improved motor activity and reduced number of Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) positive cells. Moreover, a combined hMSC delivery increased motor neuron survival, maintained neuromuscular junctions in quadriceps femoris and substantially reduced the levels of proteins involved in necroptosis (Rip1, mixed lineage kinase-like protein, cl-casp8), apoptosis (cl-casp 9) and autophagy (beclin 1). Furthermore, astrogliosis and elevated levels of Connexin 43 were decreased after combined hMSC treatment. The repeated application of CondM, or intramuscular injections alone, improved motor activity; however, this improvement was not supported by changes at the molecular level. Our results provide new evidence that a combination of repeated intrathecal and intramuscular hMSC applications protects motor neurons and neuromuscular junctions, not only through a reduction of apoptosis and autophagy but also through the necroptosis pathway, which is significantly involved in cell death in rodent SOD1G93A model of ALS. Stem Cells Translational Medicine 2019;8:535-547.
Project description:Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is the most common adult-onset neuromuscular disorder characterised by selective loss of motor neurons leading to fatal paralysis. Current therapeutic approaches are limited in their effectiveness. Substantial advances in understanding ALS disease mechanisms has come from the identification of pathogenic mutations in dominantly inherited familial ALS (FALS). We previously reported a coding mutation in D-amino acid oxidase (DAOR199W) associated with FALS. DAO metabolises D-serine, an essential co-agonist at the N-Methyl-D-aspartic acid glutamate receptor subtype (NMDAR). Using primary motor neuron cultures or motor neuron cell lines we demonstrated that expression of DAOR199W, promoted the formation of ubiquitinated protein aggregates, activated autophagy and increased apoptosis. The aim of this study was to characterise the effects of DAOR199W in vivo, using transgenic mice overexpressing DAOR199W. Marked abnormal motor features, e.g. kyphosis, were evident in mice expressing DAOR199W, which were associated with a significant loss (19%) of lumbar spinal cord motor neurons, analysed at 14 months. When separated by gender, this effect was greater in females (26%; p< 0.0132). In addition, we crossed the DAOR199W transgenic mouse line with the SOD1G93A mouse model of ALS to determine whether the effects of SOD1G93A were potentiated in the double transgenic line (DAOR199W/SOD1G93A). Although overall survival was not affected, onset of neurological signs was significantly earlier in female double transgenic animals than their female SOD1G93A littermates (125 days vs 131 days, P = 0.0239). In summary, some significant in vivo effects of DAOR199W on motor neuron function (i.e. kyphosis and loss of motor neurons) were detected which were most marked in females and could contribute to the earlier onset of neurological signs in double transgenic females compared to SOD1G93A littermates, highlighting the importance of recognizing gender effects present in animal models of ALS.
Project description:Axon degeneration occurs in all neurodegenerative diseases, but the molecular pathways regulating axon destruction during neurodegeneration are poorly understood. Sterile Alpha and TIR Motif Containing 1 (Sarm1) is an essential component of the prodegenerative pathway driving axon degeneration after axotomy and represents an appealing target for therapeutic intervention in neurological conditions involving axon loss. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is characterized by rapid, progressive motor neuron degeneration and muscle atrophy, causing paralysis and death. Patient tissue and animal models of ALS show destruction of upper and lower motor neuron cell bodies and loss of their associated axons. Here, we investigate whether loss of Sarm1 can mitigate motor neuron degeneration in the SOD1G93A mouse model of ALS. We found no change in survival, behavioral, electrophysiogical or histopathological outcomes in SOD1G93A mice null for Sarm1. Blocking Sarm1-mediated axon destruction alone is therefore not sufficient to suppress SOD1G93A-induced neurodegeneration. Our data suggest the molecular pathways driving axon loss in ALS may be Sarm1-independent or involve genetic pathways that act in a redundant fashion with Sarm1.