Membrane cholesterol depletion in cortical neurons highlights altered NMDA receptor functionality in a mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Alessia Antonini, Silvia Caioli, Luana Saba, Giulia Vindigni, Silvia Biocca, Nadia Canu, Cristina Zona

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a chronic neurodegenerative disease affecting upper and lower motor neurons, with unknown aetiology. Lipid rafts, cholesterol enriched microdomains of the plasma membrane, have been linked to neurodegenerative disorders like ALS. The NMDA-receptor subcellular localization in lipid rafts is known to play many roles, from modulating memory strength to neurotoxicity. In this study, performed on the widely used G93A mouse model of ALS, we have shown an equal content of total membrane cholesterol in Control and G93A cortical cultures. Moreover, by electrophysiological studies, we have recorded NMDA- and AMPA-evoked currents which were not significantly different between the two neuronal populations. To study the role of membrane cholesterol on glutamate receptor functionality, we have analysed NMDA and AMPA receptors following cholesterol membrane depletion by methyl-β-cyclodextrin (MβCD). Interestingly, MβCD chronic treatment has provoked a significant reduction of NMDA-evoked currents in both cellular populations which was dose- and time-dependent but significantly higher in ALS neurons compared to Control. The different MβCD effect on NMDA-evoked currents was not due to a different membrane receptor subunit composition but seemed to cause in both neuronal populations a NMDA receptor membrane redistribution. MβCD treatment effect was receptor-specific since no alterations in the two neuronal populations were detected on AMPA receptors. These results lead us to speculate for an altered proteomic composition of lipid rafts in cortical mutated neurons and suggest the need for further studies on the lipid rafts composition and on their interaction with membrane receptors in ALS cortices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)509-519
Number of pages11
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Molecular Basis of Disease
Issue number2
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Nov 24 2017


  • ALS
  • Cortical neurons
  • Electrophysiology
  • Lipid rafts
  • Methyl-β-cyclodextrin
  • NMDA receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology


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