Increased axonal ribosome numbers is an early event in the pathogenesis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Mark H G Verheijen, Marco Peviani, Rita Hendricusdottir, Erin M. Bell, Martin Lammens, August B. Smit, Caterina Bendotti, Jan Van Minnen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Myelinating glia cells support axon survival and functions through mechanisms independent of myelination, and their dysfunction leads to axonal degeneration in several diseases. In amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), spinal motor neurons undergo retrograde degeneration, and slowing of axonal transport is an early event that in ALS mutant mice occurs well before motor neuron degeneration. Interestingly, in familial forms of ALS, Schwann cells have been proposed to slow disease progression. We demonstrated previously that Schwann cells transfer polyribosomes to diseased and regenerating axons, a possible rescue mechanism for disease-induced reductions in axonal proteins. Here, we investigated whether elevated levels of axonal ribosomes are also found in ALS, by analysis of a superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1)G93A mouse model for human familial ALS and a patient suffering from sporadic ALS. In both cases, we found that the disorder was associated with an increase in the population of axonal ribosomes in myelinated axons. Importantly, in SOD1G93A mice, the appearance of axonal ribosomes preceded the manifestation of behavioral symptoms, indicating that upregulation of axonal ribosomes occurs early in the pathogenesis of ALS. In line with our previous studies, electron microscopy analysis showed that Schwann cells might serve as a source of axonal ribosomes in the disease-compromised axons. The early appearance of axonal ribosomes indicates an involvement of Schwann cells early in ALS neuropathology, and may serve as an early marker for disease-affected axons, not only in ALS, but also for other central and peripheral neurodegenerative disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere87255
JournalPLoS One
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 30 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'Increased axonal ribosome numbers is an early event in the pathogenesis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this