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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Oct 24;103(43):16021-6. Epub 2006 Oct 16.

Wild-type microglia extend survival in PU.1 knockout mice with familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

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Department of Neurology, Methodist Neurological Institute, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


The most common inherited form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neurodegenerative disease affecting adult motoneurons, is caused by dominant mutations in the ubiquitously expressed Cu(2+)/Zn(2+) superoxide dismutase (SOD1). Recent studies suggest that glia may contribute to motoneuron injury in animal models of familial ALS. To determine whether the expression of mutant SOD1 (mSOD1(G93A)) in CNS microglia contributes to motoneuron injury, PU.1(-/-) mice that are unable to develop myeloid and lymphoid cells received bone marrow transplants resulting in donor-derived microglia. Donor-derived microglia from mice overexpressing mSOD1(G93A), an animal model of familial ALS, transplanted into PU.1(-/-) mice could not induce weakness, motoneuron injury, or an ALS-like disease. To determine whether expression of mSOD1(G93A) in motoneurons and astroglia, as well as microglia, was required to produce motoneuron disease, PU.1(-/-) mice were bred with mSOD1(G93A) mice. In mSOD1(G93A)/PU.1(-/-) mice, wild-type donor-derived microglia slowed motoneuron loss and prolonged disease duration and survival when compared with mice receiving mSOD1(G93A) expressing cells or mSOD1(G93A) mice. In vitro studies confirmed that wild-type microglia were less neurotoxic than similarly cultured mSOD1(G93A) microglia. Compared with wild-type microglia, mSOD1(G93A) microglia produced and released more superoxide and nitrite+nitrate, and induced more neuronal death. These data demonstrate that the expression of mSOD1(G93A) results in activated and neurotoxic microglia, and suggests that the lack of mSOD1(G93A) expression in microglia may contribute to motoneuron protection. This study confirms the importance of microglia as a double-edged sword, and focuses on the importance of targeting microglia to minimize cytotoxicity and maximize neuroprotection in neurodegenerative diseases.

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