Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a conformational disease in which misfolding and aggregation of proteins such as SOD1 (familial ALS) and TDP-43 (sporadic ALS) are central features. The conformations adopted by such proteins within motor neurons in affected patients are not well known. We have developed a novel conformation-specific antibody (USOD) targeted against SOD1 residues 42-48 that specifically recognizes SOD1 in which the beta barrel is unfolded. Use of this antibody, in conjunction with the previously described SEDI antibody that recognizes the SOD1 dimer interface, allows a detailed investigation of the in vivo conformation of SOD1 at the residue-specific level. USOD and SEDI immunohistochemistry of spinal cord sections from ALS cases resulting from SOD1 mutations (A4V and DeltaG27/P28) shows that inclusions within remaining motor neurons contain SOD1 with both an unfolded beta barrel and a disrupted dimer interface. Misfolded SOD1 can also be immunoprecipitated from spinal cord extracts of these cases using USOD. However, in ten cases of sporadic ALS, misfolded SOD1 is not detected by either immunohistochemistry or immunoprecipitation. Using the amyloid-specific dyes, Congo Red and Thioflavin S, we find that SOD1-positive inclusions in familial ALS, as well as TDP-43- and ubiquitin-positive inclusions in sporadic ALS, contain non-amyloid protein deposits. We conclude that SOD1 misfolding is not a feature of sporadic ALS, and that both SOD1-ALS and sporadic ALS, rather than being amyloid diseases, are conformational diseases that involve amorphous aggregation of misfolded protein. This knowledge will provide new insights into subcellular events that cause misfolding, aggregation and toxicity.