Ultrastructural characterization of peripheral denervation in a mouse model of Type III spinal muscular atrophy

Federica Fulceri, Francesca Biagioni, Fiona Limanaqi, Carla L Busceti, Larisa Ryskalin, Paola Lenzi, Francesco Fornai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a heritable, autosomal recessive neuromuscular disorder characterized by a loss of the survival of motor neurons (SMN) protein, which leads to degeneration of lower motor neurons, and muscle atrophy. Despite SMA being nosographically classified as a motor neuron disease, recent advances indicate that peripheral alterations at the level of the neuromuscular junction (NMJ), involving the muscle, and axons of the sensory-motor system, occur early, and may even precede motor neuron loss. In the present study, we used a mouse model of slow progressive (type III) SMA, whereby the absence of the mouse SMN protein is compensated by the expression of two human genes (heterozygous SMN1A2G, and SMN2). This leads to late disease onset and prolonged survival, which allows for dissecting slow degenerative steps operating early in SMA pathogenesis. In this purely morphological study carried out at transmission electron microscopy, we extend the examination of motor neurons and proximal axons towards peripheral components, including distal axons, muscle fibers, and also muscle spindles. We document remarkable ultrastructural alterations being consistent with early peripheral denervation in SMA, which may shift the ultimate anatomical target in neuromuscular disease from the spinal cord towards the muscle. This concerns mostly mitochondrial alterations within distal axons and muscle, which are quantified here through ultrastructural morphometry. The present study is expected to provide a deeper knowledge of early pathogenic mechanisms in SMA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)771-791
Number of pages21
JournalJ. Neural Transm.
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


Dive into the research topics of 'Ultrastructural characterization of peripheral denervation in a mouse model of Type III spinal muscular atrophy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this