Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive, fatal neurodegenerative disease characterized by the selective death of motor neurons. While the most common form of ALS is sporadic and has no known cause, a subset of cases caused by genetic mutations are familial, of which those caused by mutations in the protein copper-zinc superoxide dismutase (SODl) represent the most extensively studied model of ALS. The formation of SODl-rich fibrillar inclusions in the spinal cord is a prominent feature of SODI-linked familial ALS in human patients and animal models of this disease. In animal models, the inclusions are preceded by the formation of high-molecular-weight oligomeric forms of SODl that appear even before the onset of symptoms, suggesting that oligomerization and aggregation of SODl is an essential component of the disease etiology. Understanding how multimeric S0D1 contributes to motor neuron death is the overarching goal of the Program Project. In this project, we will address the biophysical aspects of SODl multimerization. Specifically, the goals include (1) examining the structure of multimeric SODl generated in vitro or isolated from human and animal tissue sources, (2) applying defined multimeric preparations of tagged SODl to cultured motor neurons to study if and how they are toxic (in collaboration with project 2), (3) examining the mechanism of S0D1 multimerization into fibrils to understand how structural factors that destabilize SODl contribute to this process and, (4) elucidating the role of familial ALS-causing mutations in modulating the rate of these processes. Our studies will make extensive use of an assay we developed in the prior award period for converting SODl into soluble, oligomeric species and amyloid fibrils under mild, physiologically relevant conditions. We will also make extensive use of a variety of highly sensitive biophysical methods to study a variety of structural properties such as folding,.metal content, and disulfide status of soluble and insoluble forms of SODl isolated from animal tissues.

Public Health Relevance

A critical unsolved question in understanding amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other neurodegenerative diseases is the role of various aggregated forms of proteins in causing disease. This project addresses this question for ALS in particular using some of the best advanced biophysical and biochemical methods available.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Research Program Projects (P01)
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National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Initial Review Group (NSD)
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University of California Los Angeles
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Ayers, Jacob I; McMahon, Benjamin; Gill, Sabrina et al. (2017) Relationship between mutant Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase 1 maturation and inclusion formation in cell models. J Neurochem 140:140-150
Xu, Guilian; Fromholt, Susan; Ayers, Jacob I et al. (2015) Substantially elevating the levels of ?B-crystallin in spinal motor neurons of mutant SOD1 mice does not significantly delay paralysis or attenuate mutant protein aggregation. J Neurochem 133:452-64
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