Mouse models of SMA: tools for disease characterization and therapeutic development

Hum Genet. 2012 Aug;131(8):1277-93. doi: 10.1007/s00439-012-1171-5. Epub 2012 Apr 29.


Mouse models of human disease are an important tool for studying disease mechanism and manifestation in a way that is physiologically relevant. Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a neurodegenerative disease that is caused by deletion or mutation of the survival motor neuron gene (SMN1). The SMA disease is present in a spectrum of disease severities ranging from infant mortality, in the most severe cases, to minor motor impairment, in the mildest cases. The variability of disease severity inversely correlates with the copy number, and thus expression of a second, partially functional survival motor neuron gene, SMN2. Correspondingly, a plethora of mouse models has been developed to mimic these different types of SMA. These models express a range of SMN protein levels and extensively cover the severe and mild types of SMA, with neurological and physiological manifestation of disease supporting the relevance of these models. The SMA models provide a strong background for studying SMA and have already shown to be useful in pre-clinical therapeutic studies. The purpose of this review is to succinctly summarize the genetic and disease characteristic of the SMA mouse models and to highlight their use for therapeutic testing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Mice
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal / genetics
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal / pathology*
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal / therapy*
  • Survival of Motor Neuron 1 Protein / genetics


  • Smn1 protein, mouse
  • Survival of Motor Neuron 1 Protein