Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal, rapidly progressive, neurodegenerative disease caused by motor neuron degeneration. Despite extensive efforts, the underlying cause of ALS and the path of neurodegeneration remain elusive. Astrocyte activation occurs in response to central nervous system (CNS) insult and is considered a double edged sword in many pathological conditions. We propose that reduced glutamatergic and trophic response of astrocytes to activation may, over time, lead to accumulative CNS damage, thus facilitating neurodegeneration. We found that astrocytes derived from the SOD1(G93A) ALS mouse model exhibit a reduced glutamatergic and trophic response to specific activations compared to their wild-type counterparts. Wild-type astrocytes exhibited a robust response when activated with lipopolysaccharide (LPS), G5 or treated with ceftriaxone in many parameters evaluated. These parameters include increased expression of GLT-1 and GLAST the two major astrocytic glutamate transporters, accompanied by a marked increase in the astrocytic glutamate clearance and up-regulation of neurtrophic factor expression. However, not only do un-treated SOD1(G93A) astrocytes take up glutamate less efficiently, but in response to activation they show no further increase in any of the glutamatergic parameters evaluated. Furthermore, activation of wild-type astrocytes, but not SOD1(G93A) astrocytes, improved their ability to protect the motor neuron cell line NSC-34 from glutamate induced excitotoxicity. Our data indicates that altered astrocyte activation may well be pivotal to the pathogenesis of ALS.
Copyright © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.