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Neurobiol Dis. 2012 Aug;47(2):174-83. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2012.03.036. Epub 2012 Apr 11.

AAV2 mediated retrograde transduction of corticospinal motor neurons reveals initial and selective apical dendrite degeneration in ALS.

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Davee Department of Neurology and Neurological Clinical Sciences, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL 60611, USA.


Corticospinal motor neurons (CSMN) are the cortical component of motor neuron circuitry, which controls voluntary movement and degenerates in diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, primary lateral sclerosis and hereditary spastic paraplegia. By using dual labeling combined with molecular marker analysis, we identified AAV2-2 mediated retrograde transduction as an effective approach to selectively target CSMN without affecting other neuron populations both in wild-type and hSOD1(G93A) transgenic ALS mice. This approach reveals very precise details of cytoarchitectural defects within vulnerable neurons in vivo. We report that CSMN vulnerability is marked by selective degeneration of apical dendrites especially in layer II/III of the hSOD1(G93A) mouse motor cortex, where cortical input to CSMN function is vastly modulated. While our findings confirm the presence of astrogliosis and microglia activation, they do not lend support to their direct role for the initiation of CSMN vulnerability. This study enables development of targeted gene replacement strategies to CSMN in the cerebral cortex, and reveals CSMN cortical modulation defects as a potential cause of neuronal vulnerability in ALS.

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