Mutations in Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD1) cause a subset of cases of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Four linesof mice accumulating oneof these mutant proteins (G37R) develop severe, progressive motor neuron disease. At lower levels of mutant accumulation, pathology is restricted to lower motor neurons, whereas higher levels cause more severe abnormalities and affect a variety of other neuronal populations. The most obvious cellular abnormality is the presence in axons and dendrites of membrane-bounded vacuoles, which appear to be derived from degenerating mitochondria. Since multiple lines of mice expressing wild-type human SOD1 at similar and higher levels do not show disease, the disease in mice expressing the G37R mutant SOD1 must arise from the acquisition of an adverse property by the mutant enzyme, rather than elevation or loss of SOD1 activity.
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