Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Protein Aggregates In Lou Gehrig's Disease Linked To Neuron Death

Date:
October 27, 2005
Source:
Northwestern University
Summary:
Little is known about the cause of ALS. What is known is that misfolded and damaged proteins clump together in cells to form aggregates and motor neurons die. Scientists have long debated whether or not the protein aggregates actually kill the cells. Northwestern University scientists have become the first to clearly link the presence of mutant SOD1 protein aggregates with neuronal cell death. This could help explain the disease process and lead to new therapeutics.

EVANSTON, Ill. --- French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot first described amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 1869, but, nearly 140 years later, little is known about the cause of the devastating neurodegenerative disease, and there is no cure.

Related Articles


What is known about Lou Gehrig's disease, as it is commonly called, is that misfolded and damaged proteins clump together in cells to form aggregates and motor neurons die. But scientists have long debated whether or not the protein aggregates actually kill the cells.

Now a research team at Northwestern University, using mammalian neurons and live-cell time-lapse spectroscopy, has become the first to clearly link the presence of the ALS-associated mutant SOD1 protein aggregates with neuronal cell death. This evidence could help explain the disease process and eventually lead to new therapeutics.

In the study, published this month in the Journal of Cell Biology, the scientists looked one at a time at neuronal cells expressing the mutant SOD1 protein and found that in cells where the protein accumulated and aggregates formed, 90 percent of the cells went on to die. (They died between six and 24 hours after aggregates were visually detected.) Cells that did not form aggregates did not die.

The study also provides a new understanding of the structure and composition of the deadly aggregates -- one of the first studies to do so.

"We found that these aggregates are quite peculiar and very different from the aggregates formed in Huntington's disease," said Richard I. Morimoto, Bill A. and Gayle Cook Professor in Biological Sciences, who led the study. Morimoto is an expert in Huntington's disease and on the cellular response to damaged proteins.

"In Huntington's, the aggregate is very dense and impenetrable and binds irreversibly with other molecules in the cell," he said. "In ALS, the aggregates are amorphous, like a sponge. Other proteins can go through the structure and interact with it, which may help explain why mutant SOD1 is so toxic." Morimoto believes this surprising finding indicates that the structure of aggregates associated with other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's will be found to be different as well.

Looking at individual cells in a population, the researchers also found that cells side by side did different things. In cells expressing the same amount of damaged protein, some cells formed aggregates and died and others did not form aggregates and lived. Only a certain subset of at-risk cells went on to lose function and die.

"It would be terrifying if 100 percent of the cells expressing mutant proteins died," said Morimoto. "This means that in many cases the cell's protective machinery suppresses the damaged proteins, keeping the cell healthy. This discovery will be important to scientists looking to develop genetic suppressors and therapeutics."

Morimoto's team focused on SOD1 because it is a form of familial (hereditary) ALS in which a mutation in just one gene and its associated protein has devastating consequences to the cell. (Approximately 10 percent of ALS cases are familial.) This provides experimentalists with a powerful framework. For the other 90 percent the disease is not the result of one mutation but rather a series of many genetic events that debilitate motor neurons. With non-familial forms it is extremely difficult to design hypothesis-based experiments, said Morimoto.

The next question the researchers plan to address is what are the events that lead to cell death once mutant SOD1 protein aggregates form in the cell? This knowledge would help scientists identify small molecules that could halt, arrest or reverse the disease process.

In addition to Morimoto, other authors on the Journal of Cell Biology paper are Carina I. Holmberg, Soojin Kim, Gen Matsumoto (lead author) and Aleksandar Stojanovic, all formerly from Northwestern University.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Northwestern University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Northwestern University. "Protein Aggregates In Lou Gehrig's Disease Linked To Neuron Death." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 October 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/10/051027082636.htm>.
Northwestern University. (2005, October 27). Protein Aggregates In Lou Gehrig's Disease Linked To Neuron Death. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/10/051027082636.htm
Northwestern University. "Protein Aggregates In Lou Gehrig's Disease Linked To Neuron Death." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/10/051027082636.htm (accessed October 30, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Arm Restores Amputee Dexterity

Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Arm Restores Amputee Dexterity

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 29, 2014) A Swedish amputee who became the first person to ever receive a brain controlled prosthetic arm is able to manipulate and handle delicate objects with an unprecedented level of dexterity. The device is connected directly to his bone, nerves and muscles, giving him the ability to control it with his thoughts. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google To Use Nanoparticles, Wearables To Detect Disease

Google To Use Nanoparticles, Wearables To Detect Disease

Newsy (Oct. 29, 2014) Google X wants to improve modern medicine with nanoparticles and a wearable device. It's all an attempt to tackle disease detection and prevention. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Drinking Milk Lead To Early Death?

Can Drinking Milk Lead To Early Death?

Newsy (Oct. 29, 2014) Researchers in Sweden released a study showing heavy milk drinkers face an increased mortality risk from a variety of causes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: The US Will Not 'run and Hide' From Ebola

Obama: The US Will Not 'run and Hide' From Ebola

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) Surrounded by health care workers in the White House East Room, President Barack Obama said the U.S. will likely see additional Ebola cases in the weeks ahead. But he said the nation can't seal itself off in the fight against the disease. (Oct. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins