Altered presymptomatic AMPA and cannabinoid receptor trafficking in motor neurons of ALS model mice: implications for excitotoxicity


Dr E. C. Beattie and Dr M. E. Abood, as above.
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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder involving the selective loss of spinal cord motor neurons. Excitotoxicity mediated by glutamate has been implicated as a cause of this progressive degeneration. In this study we examined two types of receptors, the excitatory α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid-type glutamate receptors (AMPARs) and inhibitory cannabinoid receptor (CB1) with respect to their localization and total expression in spinal cord motor neurons. AMPAR and CB1 represent major excitatory and inhibitory transmission input, respectively, and their expression levels on the plasma membrane have direct relevance to the vulnerability of the motor neurons to glutamatergic excitotoxicity. We used quantitative immunofluorescence microscopy to comparatively measure the total cellular expression and the synaptic localization of specific subclasses of AMPARs [as determined by the presence of the subunits glutamate receptor 1 (GluR1) or glutamate receptor 2 (GluR2)] and CB1 in spinal cord motor neurons during disease progression in a G93ASOD1 mouse model of ALS. We found an increase in synaptic GluR1 and a decrease of synaptic and total GluR2 at early ages (6 weeks, prior to disease onset). Total CB1 receptor levels were decreased at 6 weeks old. We determined the gene expression of CB1, GluR1 and GluR2 using quantitative real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction. The decreased synaptic and total GluR2 and increased synaptic GluR1 levels may result in increased numbers of Ca2+-permeable AMPARs, thus contributing to neuronal death. Early alterations in CB1 expression may also predispose motor neurons to excitotoxicity. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of presymptomatic changes in trafficking of receptors that are in direct control of excitotoxicity and death in a mouse model of ALS.