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Brain Res. 2012 Apr 11;1448:153-62. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2012.02.005. Epub 2012 Feb 9.

Marked synergism between mutant SOD1 and glutamate transport inhibition in the induction of motor neuronal degeneration in spinal cord slice cultures.

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Department of Neurology, University of California, Irvine CA 92697-4292, USA.


Loss of astrocytic glutamate transport capacity in ALS spinal cord supports an excitotoxic contribution to motor neuron (MN) damage in the disease, and dominant gain of function mutations in Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD1) cause certain familial forms of ALS. We have used organotypic slice cultures from wild type and G93A SOD1 mutant rat spinal cords to examine interactions between excitotoxicity and the presence of mutant SOD1 in the induction of MN degeneration. Slice cultures were prepared from 1 week old pups, and after an additional week in vitro, some were exposed to either a low level (30 μM) of the glutamate uptake inhibitor, trans-pyrrolidine-2,4-dicarboxylic acid (PDC) for 3 weeks, or a higher level (50 μM) for 48 h, followed by histochemical labeling to assess MN injury. In wild type animals these exposures caused relatively little MN degeneration. Similarly, little MN degeneration was seen in slices from SOD1 mutant animals that were not exposed to PDC. However, addition of PDC to SOD1 mutant slices resulted in substantial MN injury, which was markedly attenuated by a Ca2+ permeable AMPA-type (Ca-AMPA) glutamate channel blocker, or by a nitric oxide synthase antagonist. These observations illustrate the utility of the organotypic culture model for the investigation of intracellular interactions underlying MN degeneration in ALS, and support the hypothesis that activation of Ca-AMPA channels on MNs provides a metabolic burden that synergizes with deleterious effects of mutant SOD1 in the induction of MN injury.

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