Circuit-Specific Early Impairment of Proprioceptive Sensory Neurons in the SOD1G93A Mouse Model for ALS
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disease in which motor neurons degenerate resulting in muscle atrophy, paralysis and fatality. Studies using mouse models of ALS indicate a protracted period of disease development with progressive motor neuron pathology, evident as early as embryonic and postnatal stages. Key missing information includes concomitant alterations in the sensorimotor circuit essential for normal development and function of the neuromuscular system.
... ular system. Leveraging unique brainstem circuitry, we show in vitro evidence for reflex circuit-specific postnatal abnormalities in the jaw proprioceptive sensory neurons in the well-studied SOD1G93A mouse. These include impaired and arrhythmic action potential burst discharge associated with a deficit in Nav1.6 Na+ channels. However, the mechanoreceptive and nociceptive trigeminal ganglion neurons and the visual sensory retinal ganglion neurons were resistant to excitability changes in age matched SOD1G93A mice. Computational modeling of the observed disruption in sensory patterns predicted asynchronous self-sustained motor neuron discharge suggestive of imminent reflexive defects such as muscle fasciculations in ALS. These results demonstrate a novel reflex circuit-specific proprioceptive sensory abnormality in ALS.Significance StatementNeurodegenerative diseases have prolonged periods of disease development and progression. Identifying early markers of vulnerability can therefore help devise better diagnostic and treatment strategies. In this study, we examined postnatal abnormalities in the electrical excitability of muscle spindle afferent proprioceptive neurons in the well-studied SOD1G93A mouse model for neurodegenerative motor neuron disease, ALS. Our findings suggest that these proprioceptive sensory neurons are exclusively afflicted early in the disease process relative to sensory neurons of other modalities. Moreover, they presented Nav1.6 Na+ channel deficiency which contributed to arrhythmic burst discharge. Such sensory arrhythmia could initiate reflexive defects such as muscle fasciculations in ALS as suggested by our computational model.