Decreased signalling of EphA4 improves functional performance and motor neuron survival in the SOD1G93A ALS mouse model.
ABSTRACT: 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:Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disease that affects motor neurons resulting in severe neurological symptoms. Previous findings of our lab suggested that the axonal guidance tyrosine-kinase receptor EphA4 is an ALS disease-modifying gene. Reduction of EphA4 from developmental stages onwards rescued a motor neuron phenotype in zebrafish, and heterozygous deletion before birth in the SOD1G93A mouse model of ALS resulted in improved survival. Here, we aimed to gain more insights in the cell-specific role of decreasing EphA4 expression in addition to timing and amount of EphA4 reduction. To evaluate the therapeutic potential of lowering EphA4 later in life, we ubiquitously reduced EphA4 levels to 50% in SOD1G93A mice at 60 days of age, which did not modify disease parameters. Even further lowering EphA4 levels ubiquitously or in neurons, did not improve disease onset or survival. These findings suggest that lowering EphA4 as target in ALS may suffer from a complex therapeutic time window. In addition, the complexity of the Eph-ephrin signalling system may also possibly limit the therapeutic potential of such an approach in ALS. We suggest here that a specific EphA4 knockdown in adulthood may have a limited therapeutic potential for ALS.
Project description:Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease that affects motor neurons in the brainstem, spinal cord and motor cortex. ALS is characterized by genetic and clinical heterogeneity, suggesting the existence of genetic factors that modify the phenotypic expression of the disease. We previously identified the axonal guidance EphA4 receptor, member of the Eph-ephrin system, as an ALS disease-modifying factor. EphA4 genetic inhibition rescued the motor neuron phenotype in zebrafish and a rodent model of ALS. Preventing ligands from binding to the EphA4 receptor also successfully improved disease, suggesting a role for EphA4 ligands in ALS. One particular ligand, ephrin-A5, is upregulated in reactive astrocytes after acute neuronal injury and inhibits axonal regeneration. Moreover, it plays a role during development in the correct pathfinding of motor axons towards their target limb muscles. We hypothesized that a constitutive reduction of ephrin-A5 signalling would benefit disease progression in a rodent model for ALS. We discovered that in the spinal cord of control and symptomatic ALS mice ephrin-A5 was predominantly expressed in neurons. Surprisingly, reduction of ephrin-A5 levels in SOD1G93A mice accelerated disease progression and reduced survival without affecting disease onset, motor neuron numbers or innervated neuromuscular junctions in symptomatic mice. These findings suggest ephrin-A5 as a modifier of disease progression that might play a role in the later stages of the disease. Similarly, we identified a more aggressive disease progression in patients with lower ephrin-A5 protein levels in the cerebrospinal fluid without modifying disease onset. In summary, we identified reduced expression of ephrin-A5 to accelerate disease progression in a mouse model of ALS as well as in humans. Combined with our previous findings on the role of EphA4 in ALS our current data suggests different contribution for various members of the Eph-ephrin system in the pathophysiology of a motor neuron disease.
Project description:Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease characterized by progressive loss of motor neurons. Improving neuronal survival in ALS remains a significant challenge. Previously, we identified Lanthionine synthetase C-like protein 1 (LanCL1) as a neuronal antioxidant defense gene, the genetic deletion of which causes apoptotic neurodegeneration in the brain. Here, we report in vivo data using the transgenic SOD1G93A mouse model of ALS indicating that CNS-specific expression of LanCL1 transgene extends lifespan, delays disease onset, decelerates symptomatic progression, and improves motor performance of SOD1G93A mice. Conversely, CNS-specific deletion of LanCL1 leads to neurodegenerative phenotypes, including motor neuron loss, neuroinflammation, and oxidative damage. Analysis reveals that LanCL1 is a positive regulator of AKT activity, and LanCL1 overexpression restores the impaired AKT activity in ALS model mice. These findings indicate that LanCL1 regulates neuronal survival through an alternative mechanism, and suggest a new therapeutic target in ALS.
Project description:Mechanisms underlying motor neuron degeneration in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are yet unclear. Specific deletion of the ER-component membralin in astrocytes manifested postnatal motor defects and lethality in mice, causing the accumulation of extracellular glutamate through reducing the glutamate transporter EAAT2. Restoring EAAT2 levels in membralin KO astrocytes limited astrocyte-dependent excitotoxicity in motor neurons. Transcriptomic profiles from mouse astrocytic membralin KO motor cortex indicated significant perturbation in KEGG pathway components related to ALS, including downregulation of Eaat2 and upregulation of Tnfrsf1a. Changes in gene expression with membralin deletion also overlapped with mouse ALS models and reactive astrocytes. Our results shown that activation of TNF receptor (TNFR1)-NF?B pathway known to suppress Eaat2 transcription was upregulated with membralin deletion. Further, reduced membralin and EAAT2 levels correlated with disease progression in spinal cord from SOD1-mutant mouse models, and reductions in membralin/EAAT2 were observed in human ALS spinal cord. Importantly, overexpression of membralin in SOD1G93A astrocytes decreased TNFR1 levels and increased EAAT2 expression, and improved motor neuron survival. Importantly, upregulation of membralin in SOD1G93A mice significantly prolonged mouse survival. Together, our study provided a mechanism for ALS pathogenesis where membralin limited glutamatergic neurotoxicity, suggesting that modulating membralin had potentials in ALS therapy.
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: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: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 lethal motor neuron disease with no cure. Currently there are only two ALS drugs approved by the FDA, both with a limited therapeutic effect. In the search for drug candidates for ALS, we studied the effect of known stem cell mobilizing agents (treatment) and antimetabolite 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) (anti-treatment) in SOD1G93A model of ALS. Surprisingly, we found that anti-cancer drug 5-FU increases lifespan, delays the disease onset and improves motor performance in ALS mice. Although we were not able to demonstrate the mechanistic basis of the beneficial 5-FU action in ALS mice, our findings suggest that 5-FU or similar drugs are possible drug candidates for the treatment of motor neuron diseases through drug repurposing.
Project description:BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE:Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease typically more common in males, implicating androgens in progression of both patients and mouse models. Androgen effects are mediated by androgen receptor which is highly expressed in spinal motor neurons and skeletal muscles. To clarify the role of androgen receptors in ALS, we therefore examined the effect of androgen receptor antagonism in the SOD1G93A mouse model. EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH:The androgen receptor antagonist, flutamide, was administered to presymptomatic SOD1G93A mice as a slow-release subcutaneous implant (5 mg·day-1 ). Testosterone, flutamide, and metabolite levels were measured in blood and spinal cord tissue by LC-MS-MS. Effects on disease onset and progression were assessed using motor function tests, survival, muscle, and neuropathological analyses. KEY RESULTS:Flutamide was metabolised to 2-hydroxyflutamide achieving steady-state plasma levels across the study duration and reached the spinal cord at pharmacologically active concentrations. Flutamide treatment accelerated disease onset and locomotor dysfunction in male SOD1G93A mice, but not female mice, without affecting survival. Analysis of hindlimb muscles revealed exacerbation of myofibre atrophy in male SOD1G93A mice treated with flutamide, although motor neuron pathology was not affected. CONCLUSION AND IMPLICATIONS:The androgen receptor antagonist accelerated disease onset in male SOD1G93A mice, leading to exacerbated muscle pathology, consistent with a role of androgens in modulating disease severity, sexual dimorphism, and peripheral pathology in ALS. These results also demonstrate a key contribution of skeletal muscle pathology to disease onset, but not outcome, in this mouse model of ALS.
Project description:In amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress form a vicious cycle that promotes neurodegeneration and muscle wasting. To quantify the disease-stage-dependent changes of mitochondrial function and their relationship to the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), we generated double transgenic mice (G93A/cpYFP) that carry human ALS mutation SOD1G93A and mt-cpYFP transgenes, in which mt-cpYFP detects dynamic changes of ROS-related mitoflash events at individual mitochondria level. Compared with wild type mice, mitoflash activity in the SOD1G93A (G93A) mouse muscle showed an increased flashing frequency prior to the onset of ALS symptom (at the age of 2 months), whereas the onset of ALS symptoms (at the age of 4 months) is associated with drastic changes in the kinetics property of mitoflash signal with prolonged full duration at half maximum (FDHM). Elevated levels of cytosolic ROS in skeletal muscle derived from the SOD1G93A mice were confirmed with fluorescent probes, MitoSOX™ Red and ROS Brite™570. Immunoblotting analysis of subcellular mitochondrial fractionation of G93A muscle revealed an increased expression level of cyclophilin D (CypD), a regulatory component of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore (mPTP), at the age of 4 months but not at the age of 2 months. Transient overexpressing of SOD1G93A in skeletal muscle of wild type mice directly promoted mitochondrial ROS production with an enhanced mitoflash activity in the absence of motor neuron axonal withdrawal. Remarkably, the SOD1G93A-induced mitoflash activity was attenuated by the application of cyclosporine A (CsA), an inhibitor of CypD. Similar to the observation with the SOD1G93A transgenic mice, an increased expression level of CypD was also detected in skeletal muscle following transient overexpression of SOD1G93A. Overall, this study reveals a disease-stage-dependent change in mitochondrial function that is associated with CypD-dependent mPTP opening; and the ALS mutation SOD1G93A directly contributes to mitochondrial dysfunction in the absence of motor neuron axonal withdrawal.