Effect of prolonged riluzole exposure on cultured motoneurons in a mouse model of ALS

J Neurophysiol. 2012 Jan;107(1):484-92. doi: 10.1152/jn.00714.2011. Epub 2011 Oct 19.


Riluzole is the only FDA-approved drug to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, but its long-term effects on motoneurons are unknown. Therefore, we treated primary mouse spinal cord cultures with 2 μM riluzole for 4-9 days and then used whole cell patch clamp to record the passive and active properties of both wild-type and SOD1(G93A) motoneurons. At this concentration, riluzole blocks >50% of the sodium component of a persistent inward current that plays a major role in determining motoneuron excitability. Prolonged riluzole treatment significantly decreased the amplitude of the persistent inward current. This effect was specific for SOD1(G93A) motoneurons, where the amplitude decreased by 55.4%. In addition, prolonged treatment hyperpolarized the resting membrane potential as well as the voltage onset and voltage maximum of the persistent inward current (∼2-3 mV in each case). These effects appeared to offset one another and resulted in no change in the firing properties. In a subset of cells, acute reapplication of 2 μM riluzole during the recording decreased repetitive firing and the persistent inward current, which is consistent with the normal effects of riluzole. The downregulation of the persistent inward current in response to prolonged riluzole administration is in contrast to the strong upregulation of this same current after descending neuromodulatory drive to the cord is lost following spinal injury. This dichotomy suggests that decreased activation of G protein-coupled pathways can induce upregulation in the persistent inward current but that direct channel block is ineffective.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / drug therapy*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / physiopathology*
  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Motor Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / drug effects*
  • Neuroprotective Agents / administration & dosage
  • Riluzole / administration & dosage*


  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Riluzole