INTRODUCTION: The term motor neuron disease encompasses a spectrum of disorders in which motor neurons are the lost. Importantly, while some motor neurons are lost early in disease and others remain intact at disease end-stage. This creates a valuable experimental paradigm to investigate the factors that regulate motor neuron vulnerability. Spinal muscular atrophy is a childhood motor neuron disease caused by mutations or deletions in the SMN1 gene. Here, we have performed transcriptional analysis on differentially vulnerable motor neurons from an intermediate mouse model of Spinal muscular atrophy at a presymptomatic time point. RESULTS: We have characterised two differentially vulnerable populations, differing in the level neuromuscular junction loss. Transcriptional analysis on motor neuron cell bodies revealed that reduced Smn levels correlate with a reduction of transcripts associated with the ribosome, rRNA binding, ubiquitination and oxidative phosphorylation. Furthermore, P53 pathway activation precedes neuromuscular junction loss, suggesting that denervation may be a consequence, rather than a cause of motor neuron death in Spinal muscular atrophy. Finally, increased vulnerability correlates with a decrease in the positive regulation of DNA repair. CONCLUSIONS: This study identifies pathways related to the function of Smn and associated with differential motor unit vulnerability, thus presenting a number of exciting targets for future therapeutic development.
Murray, L. M., Beauvais, A., Gibeault, S., Courtney, N. L., & Kothary, R. (2015). Transcriptional profiling of differentially vulnerable motor neurons at pre-symptomatic stage in the Smn (2b/-) mouse model of spinal muscular atrophy. Acta Neuropathologica Communications, 3, 55. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40478-015-0231-1