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FASEB J. 2004 Aug;18(11):1261-3. Epub 2004 Jun 18.

Cell death in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: interplay between neuronal and glial cells.

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  • 1Istituto di Neuroscienze CNR, Sez. Psicobiologia e Psicofarmacologia, Mondino-Tor Vergata-S. Lucià, Rome, Italy.


Mutations in the gene coding for the ubiquitous, anti-oxidant enzyme Cu,Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD1) are associated with familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (fALS), a fatal disease characterized by selective loss of motor neurons. Expression of a mutant SOD1 typical of fALS patients restricted to either motor neurons or astrocytes is insufficient to generate a pathological phenotype in mouse models, suggesting that a deleterious interplay between different cell types is necessary for the pathogenesis of the disease. In this study, we demonstrate the actual role of a functional cross-talk between glial and neuronal cells expressing fALS mutant G93A-SOD1, where an increase in the production of reactive oxygen species occurs. We show that human glioblastoma cells expressing G93A-SOD1 induce activation of caspase-1, release of cytokines, and activation of apoptotic pathways in cocultured human neuroblastoma cells also expressing G93A-SOD1. Activation of caspase-1 and caspase-3 is observed also in neuroblastoma lines expressing other fALS-SOD1s (G37R, G85R, and I113T) cocultured with glioblastoma lines expressing the corresponding mutant enzymes. These effects are consequent to activation of inflammatory processes in G93A-glioblastoma cells stimulated by cocultured G93A-neuroblastoma. Furthermore, selective death of embryonal spinal motor neurons from G93A-SOD1 transgenic mice is induced by coculture with G93A-glioblastoma and prevented by inhibition of NO synthase. Proinflammatory cytokines, interferon-gamma, and nitric oxide are among the molecular signals exchanged between glial and neuronal cells that generate a functional interplay between the two cell types. This cross-talk may be crucial for the pathogenesis of SOD1-linked fALS but also for the more common sporadic form of the disease, where markers of increased oxidative stress and of glial activation have been found.

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