Over 170 mutations in superoxide dismutase-1 (SOD1) cause familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a lethal motor neuron disease. Although the molecular properties of SOD1 mutants differ considerably, we have recently shown that intracellular copper dyshomeostasis is a common pathogenic feature of different SOD1 mutants. Thus, the potentiation of endogenous copper regulation could be a therapeutic strategy. In this study, we investigated the effects of the overexpression of metallothionein-I (MT-I), a major copper-regulating protein, on the disease course of a mouse model of ALS (SOD1G93A). Using double transgenic techniques, we found that the overexpression of MT-I in SOD1G93A mice significantly extended the lifespan and slowed disease progression, but the effects on disease onset were modest. Genetically induced MT-I normalized copper dyshomeostasis in the spinal cord without influencing SOD1 enzymatic activity. The overexpression of MT-I in SOD1G93A mice markedly attenuated the pathological features of the mice, including the death of motor neurons, the degeneration of ventral root axons, the atrophy of skeletal muscles, and the activation of glial cells. Double transgenic mice also showed a decreased level of SOD1 aggregates within the glial cells of the spinal cord. Furthermore, the overexpression of MT-I in SOD1G93A mice reduced the number of spheroid-shaped astrocytes cleaved by active caspase-3. We concluded that therapeutic strategies aimed at the potentiation of copper regulation by MT-I could be of benefit in cases of ALS caused by SOD1 mutations.
ASJC Scopus subject areas