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Neurogenetics. 2012 May;13(2):169-79. doi: 10.1007/s10048-012-0324-y. Epub 2012 Apr 1.

Axonal transport deficit in a KIF5A( -/- ) mouse model.

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Department of Neurology, Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research and German Center of Neurodegenerative Diseases, University of Tübingen, Hoppe-Seyler-Str. 3, 72076 Tübingen, Germany.


Hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP) is a neurodegenerative disorder preferentially affecting the longest corticospinal axons. More than 40 HSP genetic loci have been identified, among them SPG10, an autosomal dominant HSP caused by point mutations in the neuronal kinesin heavy chain protein KIF5A. Constitutive KIF5A knockout (KIF5A( -/- )) mice die early after birth. In these mice, lungs were unexpanded, and cell bodies of lower motor neurons in the spinal cord swollen, but the pathomechanism remained unclear. To gain insights into the pathophysiology, we characterized survival, outgrowth, and function in primary motor and sensory neuron cultures from KIF5A( -/- ) mice. Absence of KIF5A reduced survival in motor neurons, but not in sensory neurons. Outgrowth of axons and dendrites was remarkably diminished in KIF5A( -/- ) motor neurons. The number of axonal branches was reduced, whereas the number of dendrites was not altered. In KIF5A( -/- ) sensory neurons, neurite outgrowth was decreased but the number of neurites remained unchanged. In motor neurons maximum and average velocity of mitochondrial transport was reduced both in anterograde and retrograde direction. Our results point out a role of KIF5A in process outgrowth and axonal transport of mitochondria, affecting motor neurons more severely than sensory neurons. This gives pathophysiological insights into KIF5A associated HSP, and matches the clinical findings of predominant degeneration of the longest axons of the corticospinal tract.

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