Prion-like activity of Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase: implications for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Prion. Jan-Feb 2014;8(1):33-41. doi: 10.4161/pri.27602.


Neurodegenerative diseases belong to a larger group of protein misfolding disorders, known as proteinopathies. There is increasing experimental evidence implicating prion-like mechanisms in many common neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease, the tauopathies, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), all of which feature the aberrant misfolding and aggregation of specific proteins. The prion paradigm provides a mechanism by which a mutant or wild-type protein can dominate pathogenesis through the initiation of self-propagating protein misfolding. ALS, a lethal disease characterized by progressive degeneration of motor neurons is understood as a classical proteinopathy; the disease is typified by the formation of inclusions consisting of aggregated protein within and around motor neurons that can contribute to neurotoxicity. It is well established that misfolded/oxidized SOD1 protein is highly toxic to motor neurons and plays a prominent role in the pathology of ALS. Recent work has identified propagated protein misfolding properties in both mutant and wild-type SOD1, which may provide the molecular basis for the clinically observed contiguous spread of the disease through the neuroaxis. In this review we examine the current state of knowledge regarding the prion-like properties of SOD1 and comment on its proposed mechanisms of intercellular transmission.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Prions / metabolism*
  • Protein Folding
  • Superoxide Dismutase / chemistry
  • Superoxide Dismutase / genetics
  • Superoxide Dismutase / metabolism*
  • Superoxide Dismutase-1


  • Prions
  • SOD1 protein, human
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • Superoxide Dismutase-1