Motoneuron death triggered by a specific pathway downstream of Fas. potentiation by ALS-linked SOD1 mutations.
Death pathways restricted to specific neuronal classes could potentially allow for precise control of developmental neuronal death and also underlie the selectivity of neuronal loss in neurodegenerative disease. We show that Fas-triggered death of normal embryonic motoneurons requires transcriptional upregulation of neuronal NOS and involves Daxx, ASK1, and p38 together with the classical FADD/caspase-8 cascade. No evidence for involvement of this pathway was found in cells other than motoneurons. Motoneurons from transgenic mice overexpressing ALS-linked SOD1 mutants (G37R, G85R, or G93A) displayed increased susceptibility to activation of this pathway: they were more sensitive to Fas- or NO-triggered cell death but not to trophic deprivation or excitotoxic stimulation. Thus, triggering of a motoneuron-restricted cell death pathway by neighboring cells might contribute to motoneuron loss in ALS.