A multistationary loop model of ALS unveils critical molecular interactions involving mitochondria and glucose metabolism
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a poor-prognosis disease with puzzling pathogenesis and inconclusive treatments. We develop a mathematical model of ALS based on a system of interactive feedback loops, focusing on the mutant SOD1G93A mouse. Misfolded mutant SOD1 aggregates in motor neuron (MN) mitochondria and triggers a first loop characterized by oxidative phosphorylation impairment, AMP kinase over-activation, 6-phosphofructo-2-kinase (PFK3) rise, glucose metabolism shift from pentose
... shift from pentose phosphate pathway (PPP) to glycolysis, cell redox unbalance, and further worsening of mitochondrial dysfunction. Oxidative stress then triggers a second loop, involving the excitotoxic glutamatergic cascade, with cytosolic Ca2+ overload, increase of PFK3 expression, and further metabolic shift from PPP to glycolysis. Finally, cytosolic Ca2+ rise is also detrimental to mitochondria and oxidative phosphorylation, thus closing a third loop. These three loops are overlapped and positive (including an even number of inhibitory steps), hence they form a candidate multistationary (bistable) system. To describe the system dynamics, we model the interactions among the functional agents with differential equations. The system turns out to admit two stable equilibria: the healthy state, with high oxidative phosphorylation and preferential PPP, and the pathological state, with AMP kinase activation, PFK3 over expression, oxidative stress, excitotoxicity and MN degeneration. We demonstrate that the loop system is monotone: all functional agents consistently act toward the healthy or pathological condition, depending on low or high mutant SOD1 input. We also highlight that molecular interactions involving PFK3 are crucial, as their deletion disrupts the system's bistability leading to a single healthy equilibrium point. Hence, our mathematical model unveils that promising ALS management strategies should be targeted to mechanisms that keep low PFK3 expression and activity within MNs.