Ablation of P2X7 receptor exacerbates gliosis and motoneuron death in the SOD1-G93A mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Hum Mol Genet. 2013 Oct 15;22(20):4102-16. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddt259. Epub 2013 Jun 4.


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a devastating neurological disorder characterized by selective degeneration of upper and lower motoneurons. The primary triggers for motoneuron degeneration are still unknown, but inflammation is considered an important contributing factor. P2X7 receptor is a key player in microglia response to toxic insults and was previously shown to increase pro-inflammatory actions of SOD1-G93A ALS microglia. We therefore hypothesized that lack of P2X7 receptor could modify disease features in the SOD1-G93A mice. Hetero- and homozygous P2X7 receptor knock-out SOD1-G93A mice were thus generated and analysed for body weight, disease onset and progression (by behavioural scores, grip and rotarod tests) and survival. Although the lifespan of P2X7(+/-) and P2X7(-/-)/SOD1-G93A female mice was extended by 6-7% with respect to SOD1-G93A mice, to our surprise the clinical onset was significantly anticipated and the disease progression worsened in both male and female P2X7(-/-)/SOD1-G93A mice. Consistently, we found increased astrogliosis, microgliosis, motoneuron loss, induction of the pro-inflammatory markers NOX2 and iNOS and activation of the MAPKs pathway in the lumbar spinal cord of end-stage P2X7(-/-)/SOD1-G93A mice. These results show that the constitutive deletion of P2X7 receptor aggravates the ALS pathogenesis, suggesting that the receptor might have beneficial effects in at least definite stages of the disease. This study unravels a complex dual role of P2X7 receptor in ALS and strengthens the importance of a successful time window of therapeutic intervention in contrasting the pathology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / genetics
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / pathology*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / physiopathology*
  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Gliosis / metabolism
  • Gliosis / pathology
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Male
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Motor Activity
  • Motor Neurons / metabolism
  • Motor Neurons / pathology*
  • NADPH Oxidase 2
  • NADPH Oxidases / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II / metabolism
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2X7 / genetics
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2X7 / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord / metabolism
  • Spinal Cord / pathology
  • Superoxide Dismutase / genetics*
  • Superoxide Dismutase / metabolism
  • Time Factors


  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2X7
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II
  • Nos2 protein, mouse
  • SOD1 G93A protein
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • Cybb protein, mouse
  • NADPH Oxidase 2
  • NADPH Oxidases
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases