Severe neuromuscular denervation of clinically relevant muscles in a mouse model of spinal muscular atrophy

Hum Mol Genet. 2012 Jan 1;21(1):185-95. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddr453. Epub 2011 Oct 3.


Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a motoneuron disease caused by a deficiency of the survival of motor neuron (SMN) protein, is characterized by motoneuron loss and muscle weakness. It remains unclear whether widespread loss of neuromuscular junctions (NMJs) is involved in SMA pathogenesis. We undertook a systematic examination of NMJ innervation patterns in >20 muscles in the SMNΔ7 SMA mouse model. We found that severe denervation (<50% fully innervated endplates) occurs selectively in many vulnerable axial muscles and several appendicular muscles at the disease end stage. Since these vulnerable muscles were located throughout the body and were comprised of varying muscle fiber types, it is unlikely that muscle location or fiber type determines susceptibility to denervation. Furthermore, we found a similar extent of neurofilament accumulation at NMJs in both vulnerable and resistant muscles before the onset of denervation, suggesting that neurofilament accumulation does not predict subsequent NMJ denervation. Since vulnerable muscles were initially innervated, but later denervated, loss of innervation in SMA may be attributed to defects in synapse maintenance. Finally, we found that denervation was amendable by trichostatin A (TSA) treatment, which increased innervation in clinically relevant muscles in TSA-treated SMNΔ7 mice. Our findings suggest that neuromuscular denervation in vulnerable muscles is a widespread pathology in SMA, and can serve as a preparation for elucidating the biological basis of synapse loss, and for evaluating therapeutic efficacy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Male
  • Mice*
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Muscle Denervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / surgery
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal / metabolism
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal / pathology*
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal / surgery
  • Nerve Degeneration
  • Neuromuscular Junction / metabolism
  • Neuromuscular Junction / surgery*
  • Synapses / metabolism
  • Synapses / pathology