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J Neurochem. 2008 Feb;104(4):993-1005. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2007.05053.x.

Superoxide dismutase 1 mutants related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis induce endoplasmic stress in neuro2a cells.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Sejong University, Seoul, Korea.


One of the common features of damaged neurons in many neurodegenerative diseases is the presence of abnormal aggregates of the disease-related proteins. In amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) of both sporadic and familial forms, protein aggregates are found in the affected spinal cords. In familial ALS with mutations in copper-zinc superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1), the propensity of SOD1 for aggregation is known to increase with the mutation. In the present study, we examined whether the aggregate-prone SOD1 mutants induce endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and the inhibition of the ER stress protects the cells. The ALS-related mutant G85R SOD1 and G93A SOD1 formed visible aggregates and caused cell death possibly by apoptosis when over-expressed in neuro2a cells. Interestingly, the rate of the mutant SOD1-induced cell death was greater than that of the visible aggregate formation. Expression of the mutant SOD1 caused signs of both early and late ER stress responses, namely, RNA-dependent protein kinase-like ER kinase and eukaryotic initiation factor alpha phosphorylation, Jun amino-terminal kinase activation, activating transcription factor 6-translocation, X-box binding protein 1 mRNA splicing, and caspase 12 activation. The X-box binding protein 1 mRNA splicing activation was also detected in the mutant SOD1-expressing cells even without the visible aggregates. The cell death induced by the mutant SOD1 over-expression looked like apoptosis as evidenced by nuclear morphology and terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated deoxyuridine triphosphate (dUTP) nick end labeling. Importantly, an ER stress inhibitor, salubrinal delayed the formation of insoluble aggregates of the mutant SOD1 and suppressed the mutant-induced cell death. In addition, over-expression of the ER-targeted Bcl-xL protected the cells from the mutant SOD1-induced cytotoxicity. These results suggest that the misfolding of ALS-related mutant SOD1 induces ER stress possibly prior to the formation of visible aggregates, which may contribute to the motor neuron degeneration in ALS pathogenesis.

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