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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 May 28;93(11):5472-7.

The Golgi apparatus of spinal cord motor neurons in transgenic mice expressing mutant Cu,Zn superoxide dismutase becomes fragmented in early, preclinical stages of the disease.

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Department of Pathology (Neuropathology), University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, 19104, USA.


Dominant mutations of the SOD1 gene encoding Cu,Zn superoxide dismutase have been found in members of certain families with familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). To better understand the contribution of SOD1 mutations in the pathogenesis of familial ALS, we developed transgenic mice expressing one of the mutations found in familial ALS. These animals display clinical and pathological features closely resembling human ALS. Early changes observed in these animals were intra-axonal and dendritic vacuoles due to dilatation of the endoplasmic reticulum and vacuolar degeneration of mitochondria. We have reported that the Golgi apparatus of spinal cord motor neurons in patients with sporadic ALS is fragmented and atrophic. In this study we show that spinal cord motor neurons of transgenic mice for an SOD1 mutation display a lesion of the Golgi apparatus identical to that found in humans with sporadic ALS. In these mice, the stacks of the cisternae of the fragmented Golgi apparatus are shorter than in the normal organelle, and there is a reduction in Golgi-associated vesicles and adjacent cisternae of the rough endoplasmic reticulum. Furthermore, the fragmentation of the Golgi apparatus occurs in an early, presymptomatic stage and usually precedes the development of the vacuolar changes. Transgenic mice overexpressing the wild-type human superoxide dismutase are normal. In familial ALS, an early lesion of the Golgi apparatus of motor neurons may have adverse functional effects, because newly synthesized proteins destined for fast axoplasmic transport pass through the Golgi apparatus.

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