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Hum Mol Genet. 2010 Jun 1;19(11):2284-302. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddq106. Epub 2010 Mar 10.

Skeletal muscle-restricted expression of human SOD1 causes motor neuron degeneration in transgenic mice.

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Division of Neuropathology, Department of Pathology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 558 Ross Building, 720 Rutland Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21205-2196, USA.


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease of motor neurons (MNs) that causes skeletal muscle paralysis. Familial forms of ALS are linked to mutations in the superoxide dismutase-1 (SOD1) gene. The mechanisms of human SOD1 (hSOD1) toxicity to MNs are unknown. We hypothesized that skeletal muscle is a primary site of pathogenesis in ALS that triggers MN degeneration. We created transgenic (tg) mice expressing wild-type-, G37R- and G93A-hSOD1 gene variants only in skeletal muscle. These tg mice developed age-related neurologic and pathologic phenotypes consistent with ALS. Affected mice showed limb weakness and paresis with motor deficits. Skeletal muscles developed severe pathology involving oxidative damage, protein nitration, myofiber cell death and marked neuromuscular junction (NMJ) abnormalities. Spinal MNs developed distal axonopathy and formed ubiquitinated inclusions and degenerated through an apoptotic-like pathway involving capsase-3. Mice expressing wild-type and mutant forms of hSOD1 developed MN pathology. These results demonstrate that human SOD1 in skeletal muscle has a causal role in ALS and identify a new non-autonomous mechanism for MN degeneration explaining their selective vulnerability. The discovery of instigating molecular toxicities or disease progression determinants within skeletal muscle could be very valuable for the development of new effective therapies for the treatment and cure of ALS.

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