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Abstract

Embryonic motoneurons from mutant SOD1 (mSOD1) mouse models of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), but not wild-type motoneurons, can be triggered to die by exposure to nitric oxide (NO), leading to activation of a motoneuron-specific signaling pathway downstream of the death receptor Fas/CD95. To identify effectors of mSOD1-dependent cell death, we performed a proteomic analysis. Treatment of cultured mSOD1 motoneurons with NO led to a 2.5-fold increase in levels of collapsin response mediator protein 4a (CRMP4a). In vivo, the percentage of mSOD1 lumbar motoneurons expressing CRMP4 in mSOD1 mice increased progressively from presymptomatic to early-onset stages, reaching a maximum of 25%. Forced adeno-associated virus (AAV)-mediated expression of CRMP4a in wild-type motoneurons in vitro triggered a process of axonal degeneration and cell death affecting 60% of motoneurons, whereas silencing of CRMP4a in mSOD1 motoneurons protected them from NO-induced death. In vivo, AAV-mediated overexpression of CRMP4a but not CRMP2 led to the death of 30% of the lumbar motoneurons and an 18% increase in denervation of neuromuscular junctions in the gastrocnemius muscle. Our data identify CRMP4a as a potential early effector in the neurodegenerative process in ALS.

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