Axonal Mitochondrial Clusters Containing Mutant SOD1 in Transgenic Models of ALS

Antioxid Redox Signal. 2009 Jul;11(7):1535-45. doi: 10.1089/ars.2009.2614.


We studied the subcellular distribution of mitochondria and superoxide dismutase-1 (SOD1) in whole mounts of microdissected motor axons of rats expressing the ALS-linked SOD1-G93A mutation. The rationale was to determine whether physical interactions between the enzyme and mitochondria were linked to the axonopathy of motor fibers occurring in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Mitochondria and SOD1 displayed a homogeneous distribution along motor axons both in nontransgenic rats and in those overexpressing wild-type SOD1. In contrast, axons from SOD1-G93A rats (older than 35 days) showed accumulation of mitochondria in discrete clusters located at regular intervals. Most of SOD1 immunoreactivity was enriched in these clusters and colocalized with mitochondria, suggesting a recruitment of SOD1-G93A to the organelle. The SOD1/mitochondrial clusters were abundant in motor axons but scarcely seen in sensory axons. Clusters also were stained for neuronal nitric oxide synthase, nitrotyrosine, and cytochrome c. The later also was detected surrounding clusters. Ubiquitin colocalized with clusters only at late stages of the disease. The cytoskeleton was not overtly altered in clusters. These results suggest that mutant SOD1 and defective mitochondria create localized dysfunctional domains in motor axons, which may lead to progressive axonopathy in ALS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / genetics*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Axons / metabolism*
  • Cytochromes c / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Mitochondria / enzymology*
  • Mutation*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Rats, Transgenic
  • Superoxide Dismutase / genetics*
  • Tyrosine / analogs & derivatives
  • Tyrosine / metabolism
  • Ubiquitin / metabolism


  • Ubiquitin
  • 3-nitrotyrosine
  • Tyrosine
  • Cytochromes c
  • Superoxide Dismutase