The role of calcium‐binding proteins in selective motoneuron vulnerability in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Maria E. Alexianu, Bao‐Kuang ‐K Ho, A. Habib Mohamed, Vincenzo La Bella, R. Glenn Smith, Stanley H. Appel

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328 Scopus citations


The factors contributing to selective motoneuron loss in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) remain undefined. To investigate whether calcium- binding proteins contribute to selective motoneuron vulnerability in ALS, we compared calbindin-D(28K) and parvalbumin immunoreactivity in motoneuron populations in human ALS, and in a ventral spinal cord hybrid cell line selectively vulnerable to the cytotoxic effects of ALS IgG. In human autopsy specimens, immunoreactive calbindin-D(28K) and parvalbumin were absent in motoneuron populations lost early in ALS (i.e., cortical and spinal motoneurons, lower cranial nerve motoneurons), while motoneurons damaged late or infrequently in the disease (i.e., Onuf's nucleus motoneurons, oculomotor, trochlear, and abducens nerve neurons) expressed markedly higher levels of immunoreactive calbindin-D(28K) and/or parvalbumin. Motoneuron-neuroblastoma VSC 4.1 hybrid cells lost immunoreactive calbindin-D(28K) and parvalbumin following dibutyryl-cyclic AMP-induced differentiation and were killed by IgG from ALS patients. Undifferentiated calbindin/parvalbumin-reactive VSC 4.1 cells were not killed, nor were other cell lines expressing high levels of calbindin-D(28K) and parvalbumin immunoreactivity (substantia nigra- neuroblastoma hybrid cells and N18TG2 neuroblastoma parent cells). These studies suggest that decreased calbindin-D(28K) and parvalbumin immunoreactivity may help explain the selective vulnerability of motoneurons in ALS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)846-858
Number of pages13
JournalAnnals of Neurology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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