Motor neuron diseases (MND) are a group of fatal progressive neurodegenerative diseases, which selectively affect the motor system in the anterior horn of spinal cord, brainstem, cortex and pyramidal tract. Motor neurons could be divided into two groups, which are upper groups in the motor cortex and lower groups in the brain stem and spinal cord. Loss of lower motor neurons leads to muscle weakness, wasting and cramps. Loss of upper motor neurons leads to brisk reflexes and functional limits. There are several types of motor neuron disease: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), progressive bulbar palsy (PBP), progressive muscular atrophy (PMA), primary lateral sclerosis (PLS). Now, the studies of autophagy in MND focus on the type of ALS, so this chapter will summarize the alteration of autophagy in motor neurons, and how that knowledge contributes to our understanding of the pathogenesis of ALS.
Keywords: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; C9orf72; Lithium; SOD1; TDP-43.