Author(s): Bruneteau G, Bauch S, Gonzalez de Aguilar JL, Brochier G, Mandjee N,
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Abstract OBJECTIVE: Data from mouse models of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) suggest early morphological changes in neuromuscular junctions (NMJs), with loss of nerve-muscle contact. Overexpression of the neurite outgrowth inhibitor Nogo-A in muscle may play a role in this loss of endplate innervation. METHODS: We used confocal and electron microscopy to study the structure of the NMJs in muscle samples collected from nine ALS patients (five early-stage patients and four long-term survivors). We correlated the morphological results with clinical and electrophysiological data, and with Nogo-A muscle expression level. RESULTS: Surface electromyography assessment of neuromuscular transmission was abnormal in 3/9 ALS patients. The postsynaptic apparatus was morphologically altered for almost all NMJs (n = 430) analyzed using confocal microscopy. 19.7\% of the NMJs were completely denervated (fragmented synaptic gutters and absence of nerve terminal profile). The terminal axonal arborization was usually sparsely branched and 56.8\% of innervated NMJs showed a typical reinnervation pattern. Terminal Schwann cell (TSC) morphology was altered with extensive cytoplasmic processes. A marked intrusion of TSCs in the synaptic cleft was seen in some cases, strikingly reducing the synaptic surface available for neuromuscular transmission. Finally, high-level expression of Nogo-A in muscle was significantly associated with higher extent of NMJ denervation and negative functional outcome. INTERPRETATION: Our results support the hypothesis that morphological alterations of NMJs are present from early-stage disease and may significantly contribute to functional motor impairment in ALS patients. Muscle expression of Nogo-A is associated with NMJ denervation and thus constitutes a therapeutic target to slow disease progression.
This article was published in Ann Clin Transl Neurol
and referenced in Brain Disorders & Therapy