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Keywords:

  • calcium-binding proteins;
  • motoneurons;
  • superoxide dismutase.

Intracellular calcium is increased in vulnerable spinal motoneurons in immune-mediated as well as transgenic models of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). To determine whether intracellular calcium levels are influenced by the calcium-binding protein parvalbumin, we developed transgenic mice overexpressing parvalbumin in spinal motoneurons. ALS immunoglobulins increased intracellular calcium and spontaneous transmitter release at motoneuron terminals in control animals, but not in parvalbumin overexpressing transgenic mice. Parvalbumin transgenic mice interbred with mutant SOD1 (mSOD1) transgenic mice, an animal model of familial ALS, had significantly reduced motoneuron loss, and had delayed disease onset (17%) and prolonged survival (11%) when compared with mice with only the mSOD1 transgene. These results affirm the importance of the calcium binding protein parvalbumin in altering calcium homeostasis in motoneurons. The increased motoneuron parvalbumin can significantly attenuate the immune-mediated increases in calcium and to a lesser extent compensate for the mSOD1-mediated ‘toxic-gain-of-function’ in transgenic mice.