Scientific Reports

CuII (atsm) improves the neurological phenotype and survival of SOD1G93A mice and selectively increases enzymatically active SOD1 in the spinal cord

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Ubiquitous expression of mutant Cu/Zn-superoxide dismutase (SOD1) selectively affects motor neurons in the central nervous system (CNS), causing the adult-onset degenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The CNS-specific impact of ubiquitous mutant SOD1 expression is recapitulated in transgenic mouse models of the disease. Here we present outcomes for the metallo-complex Cu II (atsm) tested for therapeutic efficacy in mice expressing SOD1 G93A on a mixed genetic background. Oral administration of Cu II (atsm) delayed the onset of neurological symptoms, improved locomotive capacity and extended overall survival. Although the ALS-like phenotype of SOD1 G93A mice is instigated by expression of the mutant SOD1, we show the improved phenotype of the Cu II (atsm)-treated animals involves an increase in mature mutant SOD1 protein in the disease-affected spinal cord, where concomitant increases in copper and SOD1 activity are also evident. In contrast to these effects in the spinal cord, treating with Cu II (atsm) had no effect in liver on either mutant SOD1 protein levels or its activity, indicating a CNS-selective SOD1 response to the drug. These data provide support for Cu II (atsm) as a treatment option for ALS as well as insight to the CNS-selective effects of mutant SOD1.