Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease characterized by the progressive loss of upper and lower motor neurons. As with other age-dependent neurodegenerative disorders, ALS is linked to the presence of misfolded proteins that may perturb several intracellular mechanisms and trigger neurotoxicity. Misfolded proteins aggregate intracellularly generating insoluble inclusions that are a key neuropathological hallmark of ALS. Proteins involved in the intracellular degradative systems, signaling pathways and the human TAR DNA-binding protein TDP-43 are major components of these inclusions. While their role and cytotoxicity are still largely debated, aggregates represent a powerful marker to follow protein misfolding in the neurodegenerative processes. Using in vitro and in vivo models of mutant SOD1 associated familial ALS (fALS), we and other groups demonstrated that protein misfolding perturbs one of the major intracellular degradative pathways, the ubiquitin proteasome system, giving rise to a vicious cycle that leads to the further deposit of insoluble proteins and finally to the formation of inclusions. The aberrant response to mutated SOD1 thus leads to the activation of the cascade of events ultimately responsible for cell death. Hence, our idea is that, by assisting protein folding, we might reduce protein aggregation, restore a fully functional proteasome activity and/or other cascades of events triggered by the mutant proteins responsible for motor neuron death in ALS. This could be obtained by stimulating mutant protein turnover, using an alternative degradative pathway that could clear mutant SOD1, namely autophagy.
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Motor neuron diseases
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology
- Molecular Biology