Objective: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive, fatal neurodegenerative disease characterized by selective motoneuron death. Understanding of the molecular mechanisms that trigger and regulate motoneuron degeneration could be relevant to ALS and other motoneuron disorders. This study investigates the role of Fas-linked motoneuron death in the pathogenesis of ALS. Methods: We performed in vitro and in vivo small interfering RNA-mediated interference, by silencing the Fas receptor on motoneurons that carry the superoxide dismutase-1 (SOD1)-G93A mutation. Results: We observed a significant reduction in Fas expression at messenger RNA (p <0.001) and protein levels. Treated motoneurons demonstrated an increase in survival and a reduction in cytochrome c release from mitochondria. In vivo, continuous intrathecal administration of Fas small interfering RNA by an osmotic minipump improved motor function and survival in SOD1-G93A mice (mean increase, 18 days; p <0.0001). Treated mice showed a significant reduction in Fas and Fas mediators p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase, neuronal nitric oxide synthase, and caspase-8. Interpretation: Fas silencing interferes with motoneuron-specific downstream death pathways and results in increased motoneuron survival and amelioration of the SOD1-G93A phenotype, suggesting new possible strategies for molecular therapy of ALS.
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