Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) presents motoneuron (MN)-selective protein inclusions and axonal degeneration but the underlying mechanisms of such are unknown. Using induced pluripotent cells (iPSCs) from patients with mutation in the Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD1) gene, we show that spinal MNs, but rarely non-MNs, exhibited neurofilament (NF) aggregation followed by neurite degeneration when glia were not present. These changes were associated with decreased stability of NF-L mRNA and binding of its 3' UTR by mutant SOD1 and thus altered protein proportion of NF subunits. Such MN-selective changes were mimicked by expression of a single copy of the mutant SOD1 in human embryonic stem cells and were prevented by genetic correction of the SOD1 mutation in patient's iPSCs. Importantly, conditional expression of NF-L in the SOD1 iPSC-derived MNs corrected the NF subunit proportion, mitigating NF aggregation and neurite degeneration. Thus, NF misregulation underlies mutant SOD1-mediated NF aggregation and axonal degeneration in ALS MNs.
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