Neuronal mitochondrial dysfunction in sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is developmentally regulated

Sci Rep. 2021 Sep 23;11(1):18916. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-97928-7.


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is an adult-onset neurodegenerative disorder characterized by loss of motor neurons. Mitochondria are essential for neuronal survival but the developmental timing and mechanistic importance of mitochondrial dysfunction in sporadic ALS (sALS) neurons is not fully understood. We used human induced pluripotent stem cells and generated a developmental timeline by differentiating sALS iPSCs to neural progenitors and to motor neurons and comparing mitochondrial parameters with familial ALS (fALS) and control cells at each developmental stage. We report that sALS and fALS motor neurons have elevated reactive oxygen species levels, depolarized mitochondria, impaired oxidative phosphorylation, ATP loss and defective mitochondrial protein import compared with control motor neurons. This phenotype develops with differentiation into motor neurons, the affected cell type in ALS, and does not occur in the parental undifferentiated sALS cells or sALS neural progenitors. Our work demonstrates a developmentally regulated unifying mitochondrial phenotype between patient derived sALS and fALS motor neurons. The occurrence of a unifying mitochondrial phenotype suggests that mitochondrial etiology known to SOD1-fALS may applicable to sALS. Furthermore, our findings suggest that disease-modifying treatments focused on rescue of mitochondrial function may benefit both sALS and fALS patients.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / pathology*
  • Biopsy
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Fibroblasts
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells
  • Mitochondria / pathology*
  • Motor Neurons / cytology
  • Motor Neurons / metabolism
  • Motor Neurons / pathology*
  • Neural Stem Cells / cytology
  • Neural Stem Cells / pathology*
  • Primary Cell Culture
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Skin / pathology


  • Reactive Oxygen Species

Supplementary concepts

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 1