Human adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells as a new model of spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy

Marta Dossena, Gloria Bedini, Paola Rusmini, Elisa Giorgetti, Alessandra Canazza, Valentina Tosetti, Ettore Salsano, Anna Sagnelli, Caterina Mariotti, Cinzia Gellera, Stefania Elena Navone, Giovanni Marfia, Giulio Alessandri, Fabio Corsi, Eugenio Agostino Parati, Davide Pareyson, Angelo Poletti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy (SBMA) or Kennedy's disease is an X-linked CAG/polyglutamine expansion motoneuron disease, in which an elongated polyglutamine tract (polyQ) in the N-terminal androgen receptor (ARpolyQ) confers toxicity to this protein. Typical markers of SBMA disease are ARpolyQ intranuclear inclusions. These are generated after the ARpolyQ binds to its endogenous ligands, which promotes AR release from chaperones, activation and nuclear translocation, but also cell toxicity. The SBMA mouse models developed so far, and used in preclinical studies, all contain an expanded CAG repeat significantly longer than that of SBMA patients. Here, we propose the use of SBMA patients adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) as a new human in vitro model to study ARpolyQ toxicity. These cells have the advantage to express only ARpolyQ, and not the wild type AR allele. Therefore, we isolated and characterized adipose-derived MSCs from three SBMA patients (ADSC from Kennedy's patients, ADSCK) and three control volunteers (ADSCs). We found that both ADSCs and ADSCKs express mesenchymal antigens, even if only ADSCs can differentiate into the three typical cell lineages (adipocytes, chondrocytes and osteocytes), whereas ADSCKs, from SBMA patients, showed a lower growth potential and differentiated only into adipocyte. Moreover, analysing AR expression on our mesenchymal cultures we found lower levels in all ADSCKs than ADSCs, possibly related to negative pressures exerted by toxic ARpolyQ in ADSCKs. In addition, with proteasome inhibition the ARpolyQ levels increased specifically in ADSCKs, inducing the formation of HSP70 and ubiquitin positive nuclear ARpolyQ inclusions. Considering all of this evidence, SBMA patients adipose-derived MSCs cultures should be considered an innovative in vitro human model to understand the molecular mechanisms of ARpolyQ toxicity and to test novel therapeutic approaches in SBMA.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere112746
JournalPLoS One
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 13 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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