Clinical Spectrum of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2017 Aug 1;7(8):a024117. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a024117.


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is primarily characterized by progressive loss of motor neurons, although there is marked phenotypic heterogeneity between cases. Typical, or "classical," ALS is associated with simultaneous upper motor neuron (UMN) and lower motor neuron (LMN) involvement at disease onset, whereas atypical forms, such as primary lateral sclerosis and progressive muscular atrophy, have early and predominant involvement in the UMN and LMN, respectively. The varying phenotypes can be so distinctive that they would seem to have differing biology. Because the same phenotypes can have multiple causes, including different gene mutations, there may be multiple molecular mechanisms causing ALS, implying that the disease is a syndrome. Conversely, multiple phenotypes can be caused by a single gene mutation; thus, a single molecular mechanism could be compatible with clinical heterogeneity. The pathogenic mechanism(s) in ALS remain unknown, but active propagation of the pathology neuroanatomically is likely a primary component.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / classification
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / genetics*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / pathology*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / physiopathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Extremities / physiopathology
  • Frontotemporal Dementia / etiology
  • Humans
  • Motor Neurons / pathology*
  • Mutation
  • Phenotype*