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    Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is caused by selective degeneration of motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord; however, the primary cell death pathway(s) mediating motor neuron demise remain elusive. We recently established that necroptosis, an inflammatory form of regulated cell death, was dispensable for motor neuron death in a mouse model of ALS, implicating other forms of cell death. Here, we confirm these findings in ALS patients, showing a lack of expression of key necroptotic effector proteins in spinal cords. Rather, we uncover evidence for ferroptosis, a recently discovered iron-dependent form of regulated cell death, in ALS. Depletion of glutathione peroxidase 4 (GPX4), an anti-oxidant enzyme and central repressor of ferroptosis, occurred in post-mortem spinal cords of both sporadic and familial ALS patients. GPX4 depletion was also an early and universal feature of spinal cords and brains of transgenic mutant superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1G93A), TDP-43 and C9orf72 mouse models of ALS. GPX4 depletion and ferroptosis were linked to impaired NRF2 signalling and dysregulation of glutathione synthesis and iron-binding proteins. Novel BAC transgenic mice overexpressing human GPX4 exhibited high GPX4 expression localised to spinal motor neurons. Human GPX4 overexpression in SOD1G93A mice significantly delayed disease onset, improved locomotor function and prolonged lifespan, which was attributed to attenuated lipid peroxidation and motor neuron preservation. Our study discovers a new role for ferroptosis in mediating motor neuron death in ALS, supporting the use of anti-ferroptotic therapeutic strategies, such as GPX4 pathway induction and upregulation, for ALS treatment. © 2021. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to ADMC Associazione Differenziamento e Morte Cellulare.


    Taide Wang, Doris Tomas, Nirma D Perera, Brittany Cuic, Sophia Luikinga, Aida Viden, Samantha K Barton, Catriona A McLean, André L Samson, Adam Southon, Ashley I Bush, James M Murphy, Bradley J Turner. Ferroptosis mediates selective motor neuron death in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Cell death and differentiation. 2022 Jun;29(6):1187-1198

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    PMID: 34857917

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