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PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e57473. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0057473. Epub 2013 Feb 26.

Distinct changes in synaptic protein composition at neuromuscular junctions of extraocular muscles versus limb muscles of ALS donors.

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Department of Integrative Medical Biology, Section for Anatomy, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden.


The pathophysiology of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is very complex and still rather elusive but in recent years evidence of early involvement of the neuromuscular junctions (NMJs) has accumulated. We have recently reported that the human extraocular muscles (EOMs) are far less affected than limb muscles at the end-stage of ALS from the same donor. The present study aimed to compare the differences in synaptic protein composition at NMJ and in nerve fibers between EOM and limb muscles from ALS donors and controls. Neurofilament light subunit and synaptophysin decreased significantly at NMJs and in nerve fibers in limb muscles with ALS whereas they were maintained in ALS EOMs. S100B was significantly decreased at NMJs and in nerve fibers in both EOMs and limb muscles of ALS donors, but other markers confirmed the presence of terminal Schwann cells in these NMJs. p75 neurotrophin receptor was present in nerve fibers but absent at NMJs in ALS limb muscles. The EOMs were able to maintain the integrity of their NMJs to a very large extent until the end-stage of ALS, in contrast to the limb muscles. Changes in Ca(2+) homeostasis, reflected by altered S100B distribution, might be involved in the breakdown of nerve-muscle contact at NMJs in ALS.

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