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Ann Neurol. 1998 Nov;44(5):763-70.

Enhanced oxygen radical production in a transgenic mouse model of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, USA.


Mutations of the SOD1 gene encoding copper/zinc superoxide dismutase (CuZnSOD) cause an inherited form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. When expressed in transgenic mice, the same SOD1 mutations cause progressive loss of spinal motor neurons with consequent paralysis and death. In vitro biochemical studies indicate that SOD1 mutations enhance free radical generation by the mutant enzyme. We investigated those findings in vivo by using a novel, brain-permeable spin trap, azulenyl nitrone. Reaction of azulenyl nitrone with a free radical forms a nitroxide adduct that then fragments to yield the corresponding azulenyl aldehyde. Transgenic mice expressing mutant SOD1-G93A show enhanced free radical content in spinal cord but not brain. This correlates with tissue-specific differences in the level of transgene expression. In spinal cord, the increase in free radical content is in direct proportion to the age-dependent increase in mutant human CuZnSOD expression. This increase precedes motor neuron degeneration. The higher level of human CuZnSOD expression seen in spinal cord compared with brain, and consequent difference in free radical generation, provides a basis for understanding the selective vulnerability of the spinal cord in this disease model.

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