Cytoskeletal defects in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (motor neuron disease)

Novartis Found Symp. 2005;264:183-92; discussion 192-6, 227-30.


There is growing evidence for the involvement of cytoskeletal defects in the pathogenesis of motor neuron disease and especially in components of the microtubule-based transport system. Here we will review our recent work aiming to elucidate the role of peripherin in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and to address the mechanism of disease caused by deletions in the ALS2 gene that cause recessive forms of juvenile ALS and primary lateral sclerosis (PLS). Peripherin is an intermediate filament protein detected in spheroids, a hallmark of ALS, and increased levels of peripherin mRNA have been found in some ALS cases. Our transgenic mouse and cell culture studies support the view of a peripherin involvement in ALS. However, a gene knockout approach demonstrated that peripherin is not a key contributor of motor neuron disease caused by mutant superoxide dismutase linked to familial ALS. A recent breakthrough in the field of ALS came with the discovery of frameshift deletions in the ALS2 gene coding for Alsin. Our transfection experiments in cultured cells suggest that Alsin is a cytoskeletal protein with dual endosomal and centrosomal localizations. We have generated a mouse knockout for Alsin that develops progressive motor dysfunction during ageing. Thus, it is anticipated that this mouse model will be useful to investigate the pathogenic pathways linked to Alsin gene mutations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Gene Deletion
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / physiology*
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Motor Neurons / metabolism*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / physiology*
  • Peripherins


  • Intermediate Filament Proteins
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Peripherins