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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Mar 11;105(10):4022-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0712209105. Epub 2008 Feb 22.

Selective association of misfolded ALS-linked mutant SOD1 with the cytoplasmic face of mitochondria.

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  • 1Ludwig Institute and Departments of Medicine and Neuroscience, University of California at San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-0670, USA.


Mutations in copper/zinc superoxide dismutase (SOD1) are causative for dominantly inherited amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Despite high variability in biochemical properties among the disease-causing mutants, a proportion of both dismutase-active and -inactive mutants are stably bound to spinal cord mitochondria. This mitochondrial proportion floats with mitochondria rather than sedimenting to the much higher density of protein, thus eliminating coincidental cosedimentation of protein aggregates with mitochondria. Half of dismutase-active and approximately 90% of dismutase-inactive mutant SOD1 is bound to mitochondrial membranes in an alkali- and salt-resistant manner. Sensitivity to proteolysis and immunoprecipitation with an antibody specific for misfolded SOD1 demonstrate that in all mutant SOD1 models, misfolded SOD1 is deposited onto the cytoplasmic face of the outer mitochondrial membrane, increasing antigenic accessibility of the normally structured electrostatic loop. Misfolded mutant SOD1 binding is both restricted to spinal cord and selective for mitochondrial membranes, implicating exposure to mitochondria of a misfolded mutant SOD1 conformer mediated by a unique, tissue-selective composition of cytoplasmic chaperones, components unique to the cytoplasmic face of spinal mitochondria to which misfolded SOD1 binds, or misfolded SOD1 conformers unique to spinal cord that have a selective affinity for mitochondrial membranes.

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