Mutant CuZn superoxide dismutase in motor neuron disease

M. E. Gurney, R. Liu, J. S. Althaus, E. D. Hall, D. A. Becker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


CuZn superoxide dismutase (CuZn SOD) is one of several antioxidant enzymes that defend the cell against damage by oxygen free radicals. Mutations of the SOD1 gene encoding CuZn SOD are found in patients with familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (FALS), a progressive and fatal paralytic disease that is caused by the death of motor neurons in cortex, brainstem and spinal cord. The disease can be reproduced in transgenic mice by expression of mutant human CuZn SOD. Recent studies both in vitro and in vivo suggest that the effect of mutation is to enhance the generation of oxygen radicals by the mutant enzyme. Thus, mutation converts a protective, antioxidant enzyme into a destructive, prooxidant form that catalyses free radical damage to which motor neurons are selectively vulnerable. Recent studies of neuroprotective agents in the FALS model show that inhibition of oxidative mechanisms (copper chelation therapy, dietary antioxidants, and coexpression of bcl-2) delays disease onset but does not extend disease duration. In contrast, inhibition of glutamatergic or apoptotic mechanisms (riluzole, gabapentin, and coex-pression of an inhibitor of caspase-l) has no effect on disease onset but extends survival by increasing the duration of symptomatic disease. Thus, neuroprotective agents differentially target the processes underlying disease initiation and propagation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)587-597
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Inherited Metabolic Disease
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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