The death of cranial and spinal motoneurons (MNs) is believed to be an essential component of the pathogenesis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). We tested this hypothesis by crossing Bax-deficient mice with mice expressing mutant superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1), a transgenic model of familial ALS. Although Bax deletion failed to prevent neuromuscular denervation and mitochondrial vacuolization, MNs were completely rescued from mutant SOD1-mediated death. However, Bax deficiency extended lifespan and delayed the onset of motor dysfunction of SOD1 mutants, suggesting that Bax acts via a mechanism distinct from cell death activation. Consistent with this idea, Bax elimination delayed the onset of neuromuscular denervation, which began long before the activation of cell death proteins in SOD1 mutants. Additionally, we show that denervation preceded accumulation of mutant SOD1 within MNs and astrogliosis in the spinal cord, which are also both delayed in Bax-deficient SOD1 mutants. Interestingly, MNs exhibited mitochondrial abnormalities at the innervated neuromuscular junction at the onset of neuromuscular denervation. Additionally, both MN presynaptic terminals and terminal Schwann cells expressed high levels of mutant SOD1 before MNs withdrew their axons. Together, these data support the idea that clinical symptoms in the SOD1 G93A model of ALS result specifically from damage to the distal motor axon and not from activation of the death pathway, and cast doubt on the utility of anti-apoptotic therapies to combat ALS. Furthermore, they suggest a novel, cell death-independent role for Bax in facilitating mutant SOD1-mediated motor denervation.
"Recent studies have shown that even a complete rescue of motor neuron cell bodies does not cure mSOD1 mice , ,  suggesting that preserving the normal function of motor neuron cells is therapeutically not sufficient, since the rescued motor neurons are unable to recreate destroyed neuromuscular junctions (NMJ) . Other attempts that rescue only motor neurons have also failed to halt progression . "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a neurodegenerative disorder of motor neurons causing progressive muscle weakness, paralysis, and eventual death from respiratory failure. There is currently no cure or effective treatment for ALS. Besides motor neuron degeneration, ALS is associated with impaired energy metabolism, which is pathophysiologically linked to mitochondrial dysfunction and glutamate excitotoxicity. The Deanna Protocol (DP) is a metabolic therapy that has been reported to alleviate symptoms in patients with ALS. In this study we hypothesized that alternative fuels in the form of TCA cycle intermediates, specifically arginine-alpha-ketoglutarate (AAKG), the main ingredient of the DP, and the ketogenic diet (KD), would increase motor function and survival in a mouse model of ALS (SOD1-G93A). ALS mice were fed standard rodent diet (SD), KD, or either diets containing a metabolic therapy of the primary ingredients of the DP consisting of AAKG, gamma-aminobutyric acid, Coenzyme Q10, and medium chain triglyceride high in caprylic triglyceride. Assessment of ALS-like pathology was performed using a pre-defined criteria for neurological score, accelerated rotarod test, paw grip endurance test, and grip strength test. Blood glucose, blood beta-hydroxybutyrate, and body weight were also monitored. SD+DP-fed mice exhibited improved neurological score from age 116 to 136 days compared to control mice. KD-fed mice exhibited better motor performance on all motor function tests at 15 and 16 weeks of age compared to controls. SD+DP and KD+DP therapies significantly extended survival time of SOD1-G93A mice by 7.5% (p = 0.001) and 4.2% (p = 0.006), respectively. Sixty-three percent of mice in the KD+DP and 72.7% of the SD+DP group lived past 125 days, while only 9% of the control animals survived past that point. Targeting energy metabolism with metabolic therapy produces a therapeutic effect in ALS mice which may prolong survival and quality of life in ALS patients.
PLoS ONE 07/2014; 9(7):e103526. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0103526 · 3.23 Impact Factor
"Alterations in the expression of regulatory apoptotic molecules including Bax, Bak, capsases and p53 have been observed in MND animal models ,  and human CNS samples have suggested that apoptosis is involved in MND . However, the null relationship between cancer and MND presented here supports the opposing concept that apoptosis is not a major pathological mechanism of motor neuron degeneration in MND –. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cancer appears to be inversely associated with both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. The relationship between cancer and sporadic motor neuron disease (SMND), however, remains uncertain. Most previous cancer-SMND studies have been undertaken in northern hemisphere populations. We therefore undertook a case-control study to see if a link between cancer and SMND exists in an Australian population. A questionnaire was used to compare past cancer diagnoses in 739 SMND patients and 622 controls, recruited across Australia. Odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals were calculated to look for associations between cancer and SMND. A history of cancer was not associated either positively or negatively with a risk of subsequent SMND. This result remained when age, gender, smoking status, and the four SMND diagnostic subgroups were taken into account. No association was observed between SMND and specific tumours, including melanoma, a common malignancy in Australia. In conclusion, this Australian case-control study does not support an association between a past history of cancer and the development of SMND. This suggests that some pathogenetic mechanisms, such as apoptosis, are less relevant in SMND than in other neurodegenerative diseases where negative associations with cancer have been found.
PLoS ONE 07/2014; 9(7):e103572. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0103572 · 3.23 Impact Factor
"NMJ disassembly is a common pathology seen in aged animals – and also, in a number of degenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis ,  and spinal muscular atrophy . It is also widely believed that synaptic dysfunction develops concurrently or as a direct result of NMJ structural changes leading to neuropathy and neuronal loss –. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Elevated reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and ROS-dependent protein damage is a common observation in the pathogenesis of many muscle wasting disorders, including sarcopenia. However, the contribution of elevated ROS levels to -a breakdown in neuromuscular communication and muscle atrophy remains unknown. In this study, we examined a copper zinc superoxide dismutase [CuZnSOD (Sod1)] knockout mouse (Sod1-/-), a mouse model of elevated oxidative stress that exhibits accelerated loss of muscle mass, which recapitulates many phenotypes of sarcopenia as early as 5 months of age. We found that young adult Sod1-/- mice display a considerable reduction in hind limb skeletal muscle mass and strength when compared to age-matched wild-type mice. These changes are accompanied by gross alterations in neuromuscular junction (NMJ) morphology, including reduced occupancy of the motor endplates by axons, terminal sprouting and axon thinning and irregular swelling. Surprisingly however, the average density of acetylcholine receptors in endplates is preserved. Using in vivo electromyography and ex vivo electrophysiological studies of hind limb muscles in Sod1-/- mice, we found that motor axons innervating the extensor digitorum longus (EDL) and gastrocnemius muscles release fewer synaptic vesicles upon nerve stimulation. Recordings from individually identified EDL NMJs show that reductions in neurotransmitter release are apparent in the Sod1-/- mice even when endplates are close to fully innervated. However, electrophysiological properties, such as input resistance, resting membrane potential and spontaneous neurotransmitter release kinetics (but not frequency) are similar between EDL muscles of Sod1-/- and wild-type mice. Administration of the potassium channel blocker 3,4-diaminopyridine, which broadens the presynaptic action potential, improves both neurotransmitter release and muscle strength. Together, these results suggest that ROS-associated motor nerve terminal dysfunction is a contributor to the observed muscle changes in Sod1-/- mice.
PLoS ONE 06/2014; 9(6):e100834. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0100834 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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