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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1994 Aug 16;91(17):8292-6.

Superoxide dismutase 1 with mutations linked to familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis possesses significant activity.

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Department of Pathology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21205.


Familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (FALS) has been linked to mutations in the homodimeric enzyme Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1). Assay by transient expression in primate cells of six FALS mutant enzymes revealed a continuum of enzymatic activity bounded by the enzyme carrying the mutation Gly-85-->Arg, which was inactive, and mutant enzyme G37R carrying the Gly-37-->Arg change, which retained full specific activity but displayed a 2-fold reduction in polypeptide stability. The G37R mutant displayed similar properties in transformed lymphocytes from an individual heterozygous for the G37R and wild-type SOD1 genes; heterodimeric enzymes composed of mutant and wild-type subunits were detected, but there was no measurable diminution in the stability and activity of the wild-type subunits. Thus, for mutants such as G37R, either surprisingly modest losses in activity (involving only the mutant subunit) can yield motor neuron death, or alternatively, mutant SOD1 may acquire properties that injure motor neurons by one or more mechanisms unrelated to the metabolism of oxygen radicals.

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