Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology



First Thesis Advisor

Daryl A. Bosco, PhD


Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Biological Markers, Mutation, Superoxide Dismutase, Post-Translational Protein Processing, Proteostasis Deficiencies


Dissertations, UMMS; Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis; Biological Markers; Mutation; Superoxide Dismutase; Protein Processing, Post-Translational; Proteostasis Deficiencies


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by a loss of voluntary movement over time, leading to paralysis and death. While 10% of ALS cases are inherited or familial (FALS), the majority of cases (90%) are sporadic (SALS) with unknown etiology. Approximately 20% of FALS cases are genetically linked to a mutation in the anti-oxidizing enzyme, superoxide dismutase (SOD1). SALS and FALS are clinically indistinguishable, suggesting a common pathogenic mechanism exists for both types. Since such a large number of genetic mutations in SOD1 result in FALS (>170), it is reasonable to suspect that non-genetic modifications to SOD1 induce structural perturbations that result in ALS pathology as well. In fact, misfolded SOD1 lacking any genetic mutation was identified in end stage spinal cord tissues of SALS patients using misfolded SOD1-specific antibodies. In addition, this misfolded WT SOD1 found in SALS tissue inhibits axonal transport in vitro, supporting the notion that misfolded WT SOD1 exhibits toxic properties like that of FALS-linked SOD1. Indeed, aberrant post-translational modifications, such as oxidation, cause WT SOD1 to mimic the toxic properties of FALS-linked mutant SOD1. Based on these data, I hypothesize that modified, misfolded forms of WT SOD1 contribute to SALS disease progression in a manner similar to FALS linked mutant SOD1 in FALS. The work presented in this dissertation supports this hypothesis. Specifically, one common misfolded form of SOD1 is defined and exposure of this toxic region is shown to enhance SOD1 toxicity. Preventing exposure, or perhaps stabilization, of this “toxic” region is a potential therapeutic target for a subset of both familial and sporadic ALS patients. Further, the possibility of exploiting this misfolded SOD1 species as a biomarker is explored. For example, an over-oxidized SOD1 species was identified in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from SALS patients that is reduced in controls. Moreover, 2-dimensional gel electrophoresis revealed a more negatively charged species of SOD1 in PBMCs of healthy controls greatly reduced in SALS patients. This species is hypothesized to be involved in the degradation of SOD1, further implicating both misfolded SOD1 and altered protein homeostasis in ALS pathogenesis.



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