ALS-linked mutant SOD1 damages mitochondria by promoting conformational changes in Bcl-2.

Document Type


Publication Date



This article has been peer reviewed. It was published in Human molecular genetics.

Volume 19, Issue 15, August 2010, Pages 2974-86.

The published version is available at DOI: 10.1093/hmg/ddq202. Copyright © Oxford Journals.


In mutant superoxide dismutase (SOD1)-linked amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), accumulation of misfolded mutant SOD1 in spinal cord mitochondria is thought to cause mitochondrial dysfunction. Whether mutant SOD1 is toxic per se or whether it damages the mitochondria through interactions with other mitochondrial proteins is not known. We previously identified Bcl-2 as an interacting partner of mutant SOD1 specifically in spinal cord, but not in liver, mitochondria of SOD1 mice and patients. We now show that mutant SOD1 toxicity relies on this interaction. Mutant SOD1 induces mitochondrial morphological changes and compromises mitochondrial membrane integrity leading to release of Cytochrome C only in the presence of Bcl-2. In cells, mouse and human spinal cord with SOD1 mutations, the binding to mutant SOD1 triggers a conformational change in Bcl-2 that results in the uncovering of its toxic BH3 domain and conversion of Bcl-2 into a toxic protein. Bcl-2 carrying a mutagenized, non-toxic BH3 domain fails to support mutant SOD1 mitochondrial toxicity. The identification of Bcl-2 as a specific target and active partner in mutant SOD1 mitochondrial toxicity suggests new therapeutic strategies to inhibit the formation of the toxic mutant SOD1/Bcl-2 complex and to prevent mitochondrial damage in ALS.

PubMed ID