Spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy (SBMA) is an X-linked, neuromuscular neurodegenerative disease for which there is no cure. The disease is characterized by a selective decrease in fast-muscle power (e.g., tongue pressure, grip strength) accompanied by a selective loss of fast-twitch muscle fibers. However, the relationship between neuromuscular junction (NMJ) pathology and fast-twitch motor unit vulnerability has yet to be explored. In this study, we used a cross-model comparison of two mouse models of SBMA to evaluate neuromuscular junction pathology, glycolytic-to-oxidative fiber-type switching, and cytoskeletal alterations in pre- and postsynaptic termini of tibialis anterior (TA), gastrocnemius, and soleus hindlimb muscles. We observed significantly increased NMJ and myofiber pathology in fast-twitch, glycolytic motor units of the TA and gastrocnemius compared to slow-twitch, oxidative motor units of the soleus, as seen by decreased pre- and post-synaptic membrane area, decreased pre- and post-synaptic membrane colocalization, increased acetylcholine receptor compactness, a decrease in endplate area and complexity, and deficits in neurofilament heavy chain. Our data also show evidence for metabolic dysregulation and myofiber atrophy that correlate with severity of NMJ pathology. We propose a model in which the dynamic communicative relationship between the motor neuron and muscle, along with the developmental subtype of the muscle, promotes motor unit subtype specific vulnerability, metabolic alterations, and NMJ pathology.
Molotsky, Elana; Liu, Y; Lieberman, Andrew P; and Merry, Diane E, "Neuromuscular junction pathology is correlated with differential motor unit vulnerability in spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy" (2022). Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Faculty Papers. Paper 220.
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