Metabolic Dysfunction in Familial, but Not Sporadic, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Prof. M. F. Beal at Neurology Service, Warren 408, Massachusetts General Hospital, 32 Fruit Street, Boston, MA 02114, U.S.A.


Abstract: Autosomal dominant familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (FALS) is associated with mutations in the gene encoding Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD1). Previous studies have implicated the involvement of metabolic dysfunction in ALS pathogenesis. To further investigate the biochemical features of FALS and sporadic ALS (SALS), we examined SOD activity and mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation enzyme activities in motor cortex (Brodmann area 4), parietal cortex (Brodmann area 40), and cerebellum from control subjects, FALS patients with and without known SOD mutations, SALS patients, and disease controls (Pick's disease, progressive supranuclear palsy, diffuse Lewy body disease). Cytosolic SOD activity, predominantly Cu/Zn SOD, was decreased ∼50% in all regions in FALS patients with SOD mutations but was not significantly altered in other patient groups. Marked increases in complex I and II–III activities were seen in FALS patients with SOD mutations but not in SALS patients. We also measured electron transport chain enzyme activities in a transgenic mouse model of FALS. Complex I activity was significantly increased in the forebrain of 60-day-old G93A transgenic mice overexpressing human mutant SOD1, relative to levels in transgenic wild-type animals, supporting the hypothesis that the motor neuron disorder associated with SOD1 mutations involves a defect in mitochondrial energy metabolism.