April 15, 2021

Expression of a miRNA targeting mutated SOD1 in astrocytes induces motoneuron plasticity and improves neuromuscular function in ALS mice

In amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) caused by SOD1 gene mutations, both cell-autonomous and non-cell-autonomous mechanisms lead to the selective degeneration of motoneurons. Here, we evaluate the therapeutic potential of gene therapy targeting mutated SOD1 in mature astrocytes using mice expressing the mutated SOD1G93A protein. An AAV-gfaABC1D vector encoding an artificial microRNA is used to deliver RNA interference against mutated SOD1 selectively in astrocytes. The treatment leads to the progressive rescue of neuromuscular junction occupancy, to the recovery of the compound muscle action potential in the gastrocnemius muscle, and significantly improves neuromuscular function. In the spinal cord, gene therapy targeting astrocytes protects a small pool of fast-fatigable motoneurons until disease end stage. In the gastrocnemius muscle of the treated SOD1G93A mice, the fast-twitch type IIb muscle fibers are preserved from atrophy. Axon collateral sprouting is observed together with muscle fiber type grouping indicative of denervation/re-innervation events. The transcriptome profiling of spinal cord motoneurons shows changes in the expression levels of factors regulating the dynamics of microtubules. Gene therapy delivering RNA interference against mutated SOD1 in astrocytes provides therapeutic effects enhancing motoneuron plasticity and improving neuromuscular function in ALS mice.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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