Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

UMMS researchers isolate gene mutations in patients with inherited amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

16.07.2012
Disruption of cytoskeleton pathways contribute to ALS pathogenesis

A new genetic mutation that causes familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a fatal neurological disorder also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, has been identified by a team of scientists led by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS).

Mutations to the profilin (PFN1) gene, which is essential to the growth and development of nerve cell axons, is estimated to account for one to two percent of inherited ALS cases. The finding, described today in the online edition of Nature, points to defects in a neuron's cytoskeleton structure as a potential common feature among diverse ALS genes.

"This discovery identifies what may possibly be a common biological mechanism involved across familial ALS cases regardless of genetics," said John Landers, PhD, associate professor of neurology and senior author of the study. "We know of at least three other ALS genes, in addition to PFN1, that adversely impact axon growth. If indeed, this is part of the disease's mechanism, then it might also be a potential target for therapeutics."

Robert Brown, MD, DPhil, a co-author on the study and chair of neurology at UMass Medical School, said "Dr. Landers has done great work in defining this new pathway for motor neuron death. We are delighted to have identified the defects in families from the U.S., Israel and France that we have been investigating for several years. Our finding is particularly exciting because it may provide new insights into ALS treatment targets."

ALS is a progressive, neurodegenerative disorder affecting the motor neurons in the central nervous system. As motor neurons die, the brain's ability to send signals to the body's muscles is compromised. This leads to loss of voluntary muscle movement, paralysis and eventually respiratory failure. The cause of most cases of ALS is not known. Approximately 10 percent of cases are inherited. Though investigators at UMass Medical School and elsewhere have identified several genes shown to cause inherited or familial ALS, almost 50 percent of these cases have an unknown genetic cause.

The current Nature study details the discovery of the PFN1 gene mutation among two large ALS families. Both families were negative for known ALS-causing mutations and displayed familial relationships that suggested a dominant inheritance mode for the disease. For each family, two affected members with maximum genetic distance were selected for deep DNA sequencing. To identify an ALS-causing mutation, genetic variations between the family members were identified and screened against known databases of human genetic variation, such as the 1000 Genomes Project. This narrowed down the resulting number of candidate, ALS-causing mutations to two within the first family and three within the second. Interestingly, both families contained different mutations within the same gene – PFN1, the likely causative mutation. With additional screening, the team documented that in a total of 274 families sequenced, seven contained a mutation to the PFN1 gene, establishing it as a likely cause for ALS.

While it is not certain how the PFN1 mutation causes ALS, the cellular functions it controls within the motor neurons are responsible for regulation of a number of activities, including the growth and development of the axon, the slender projection through which neurons transmit electrical impulses to neighboring cells, such as muscle. When introduced into motor neuron cells, normal PFN1 protein was found diffused throughout the cytoplasm. Conversely, the mutant PFN1 observed in ALS patients was found to collect in dense aggregates, keeping it from functioning properly. Motor neurons producing mutated PFN1 showed markedly shorter axon outgrowth.

"The discovery that mutant PFN1 interferes with axon outgrowth was very exciting to us," said Claudia Fallini, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at Emory University School of Medicine who collaborated with the UMass Medical School authors to investigate PFN1's functions in cultured motor neurons. "It suggests that alterations in actin dynamics may be an important mechanism at the basis of motor neuron degeneration."

"In healthy neurons, PFN1 acts almost like a railroad tie for fibrous filaments called actin, which make up the axon" said Landers. "PFN1 helps bind these filaments to each other, promoting outgrowth of the axon. Without properly functioning PFN1 these filaments can't come together. Here we show that mutant PFN1 may contribute to ALS pathogeneses by accumulating in these aggregates and altering the actin dynamics in a way that inhibits axon outgrowth."

Drs. Landers and Brown are members of the Neurotherapeutics Institute at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Grant support for this project was provided by the NIH/NINDS 1R01NS065847 JEL, 1R01NS050557 RHB, RC2-NS070-342 RHB, Project ALS and P2ALS, the Angel Fund for ALS Research, the Muscular Dystrophy Association MDA173851 WR and AriSLA co-financed with support of 5x1000 Healthcare research of the Ministry of Health EXOMEFALS NT, CG, VS, JEL. Support was also provided by an SMA Europe fellowship to CF.

About the University of Massachusetts Medical School

The University of Massachusetts Medical School has built a reputation as a world-class research institution, consistently producing noteworthy advances in clinical and basic research. The Medical School attracts more than $270 million in research funding annually, 80 percent of which comes from federal funding sources. The work of UMMS researcher Craig Mello, PhD, an investigator of the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), and his colleague Andrew Fire, PhD, then of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, toward the discovery of RNA interference was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and has spawned a new and promising field of research, the global impact of which may prove astounding. UMMS is the academic partner of UMass Memorial Health Care, the largest health care provider in Central Massachusetts.

Jim Fessenden | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.umassmed.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Show me your leaves - Health check for urban trees
12.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.

nachricht Liver Cancer: Lipid Synthesis Promotes Tumor Formation
12.12.2017 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

12.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Multi-year submarine-canyon study challenges textbook theories about turbidity currents

12.12.2017 | Earth Sciences

Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

12.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>