We have earlier reported that intrathecal injection of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from sporadic Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis patients (ALS-CSF) into neonatal rats and supplementation of rat spinal cord cultures with ALS-CSF induces motor neuron degeneration via aberrant neurofilament phosphorylation and Golgi apparatus fragmentation. Intracellular aggregates immunoreactive to ubiquitin, phosphorylated neurofilaments and choline acetyl transferase (ChAT) were prominently seen in NSC-34 cells exposed to ALS-CSF. Protein aggregation could cause stress on endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and may precede Golgi fragmentation. Here we assessed the effect of ALS-CSF on the expression of GRP-78 and caspase-12 proteins, the markers of ER stress responses, in NSC-34 cells and rat spinal cords by immunochemistry and immunoblotting. Both in vitro and in vivo, increased expression of these proteins accompanied elevated active caspase-12 levels. Apoptotic nuclei and nuclear translocation of caspase-12 were noted in some cells. In vitro, the occurrence of ER stress was supported by electron microscopic observations of numerous free polyribosomes and fragmented ER cisternae. Aggregated mSOD1 protein causes ER stress in familial ALS. ER stress is also reported in the autopsy samples of sporadic ALS. Thus our observation of ER stress may be linked to the protein aggregation, viz. phosphorylated neurofilaments and ChAT, reported earlier.
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