Early signs of motoneuron vulnerability in a disease model system: Characterization of transverse slice cultures of spinal cord isolated from embryonic ALS mice.

Neurobiology Sector and Istituto Nazionale di Fisica della Materia Unit, International School for Advanced Studies, via Beirut 2-4, 34014 Trieste, Italy.
Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 3.33). 02/2006; 138(4):1179-94. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2005.12.009
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Mutations in the SOD1 gene are associated with familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The mechanisms by which these mutations lead to cell loss within the spinal cord ventral horns are unknown. In the present report we used the G93A transgenic mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis to develop and characterize an in vitro tool for the investigation of subtle alterations of spinal tissue prior to frank neuronal degeneration. To this aim, we developed organotypic slice cultures from wild type and G93A embryonic spinal cords. We combined immunocytochemistry and electron microscopy techniques to compare wild type and G93A spinal cord tissues after 14 days of growth under standard in vitro conditions. By SMI32 and choline acetyl transferase immunostaining, the distribution and morphology of motoneurons were compared in the two culture groups. Wild type and mutant cultures displayed no differences in the analyzed parameters as well as in the number of motoneurons. Similar results were observed when glial fibrillary acidic protein and myelin basic protein-positive cells were examined. Cell types within the G93A slice underwent maturation and slices could be maintained in culture for at least 3 weeks when prepared from embryos. Electron microscopy investigation confirmed the absence of early signs of mitochondria vacuolization or protein aggregate formation in G93A ventral horns. However, a significantly different ratio between inhibitory and excitatory synapses was present in G93A cultures, when compared with wild type ones, suggesting the expression of subtle synaptic dysfunction in G93A cultured tissue. When compared with controls, G93A motoneurons exhibited increased vulnerability to AMPA glutamate receptor-mediated excitotoxic stress prior to clear disease appearance. This in vitro disease model may thus represent a valuable tool to test early mechanisms contributing to motoneuron degeneration and potential therapeutic molecular interventions.

  • Source
    Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, 01/2012; , ISBN: 978-953-307-806-9
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a rapidly evolving and fatal adult-onset neurological disease characterized by progressive degeneration of motoneurons. Our previous study showed that glycinergic innervation of spinal motoneurons is deficient in an ALS mouse model expressing a mutant form of human superoxide dismutase-1 with a Gly93→Ala substitution (G93A-SOD1). In this study, we have examined, using whole-cell patch-clamp recordings, glycine receptor (GlyR)-mediated currents in spinal motoneurons from these transgenic mice. We developed a dissociated spinal cord culture model using embryonic transgenic mice expressing enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP) driven by the Hb9 promoter. Motoneurons were identified as Hb9-eGFP-expressing (Hb9-eGFP(+)) neurons with a characteristic morphology. To examine GlyRs in ALS motoneurons, we bred G93A-SOD1 mice to Hb9-eGFP mice and compared glycine-evoked currents in cultured Hb9-eGFP(+) motoneurons prepared from G93A-SOD1 embryos and from their nontransgenic littermates. Glycine-evoked current density was significantly smaller in the G93A-SOD1 motoneurons compared with control. Furthermore, the averaged current densities of spontaneous glycinergic miniature IPSCs (mIPSCs) were significantly smaller in the G93A-SOD1 motoneurons than in control motoneurons. No significant differences in GABA-induced currents and GABAergic mIPSCs were observed between G93A-SOD1 and control motoneurons. Quantitative single-cell reverse transcription-PCR found lower GlyRα1 subunit mRNA expression in G93A-SOD1 motoneurons, indicating that the reduction of GlyR current may result from the downregulation of GlyR mRNA expression in motoneurons. Immunocytochemistry demonstrated a decrease of surface postsynaptic GlyR on G93A-SOD1 motoneurons. Our study suggests that selective alterations in GlyR function contribute to inhibitory insufficiency in motoneurons early in the disease process of ALS.
    The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience 02/2011; 31(8):2815-27. DOI:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2475-10.2011 · 6.75 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Embryonic spinal neurons maintained in organotypic slice culture are known to mimic certain maturation-dependent signalling changes. With such a model we investigated, in embryonic mouse spinal segments, the age-dependent spatio-temporal control of intracellular Ca(2+) signalling generated by neuronal populations in ventral circuits and its relation with electrical activity. We used Ca(2+) imaging to monitor areas located within the ventral spinal horn at 1 and 2 weeks of in vitro growth. Primitive patterns of spontaneous neuronal Ca(2+) transients (detected at 1 week) were typically synchronous. Remarkably, such transients originated from widespread propagating waves that became organized into large-scale rhythmic bursts. These activities were associated with the generation of synaptically mediated inward currents under whole-cell patch-clamp. Such patterns disappeared during longer culture of spinal segments: at 2 weeks in culture, only a subset of ventral neurons displayed spontaneous, asynchronous and repetitive Ca(2+) oscillations dissociated from background synaptic activity. We observed that the emergence of oscillations was a restricted phenomenon arising together with the transformation of ventral network electrophysiological bursting into asynchronous synaptic discharges. This change was accompanied by the appearance of discrete calbindin immunoreactivity against an unchanged background of calretinin-positive cells. It is attractive to assume that periodic oscillations of Ca(2+) confer a summative ability to these cells to shape the plasticity of local circuits through different changes (phasic or tonic) in intracellular Ca(2+).
    European Journal of Neuroscience 05/2009; 29(8):1543-59. DOI:10.1111/j.1460-9568.2009.06708.x · 3.67 Impact Factor