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PLoS One


Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Animals, Disease Models, Animal, Dynactin Complex, Humans, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Transgenic, Motor Neuron Disease, Quantitative Trait Loci, Superoxide Dismutase, Superoxide Dismutase-1





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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is the most common degenerative motor neuron disorder. Although most cases of ALS are sporadic, 5-10% of cases are familial, with mutations associated with over 40 genes. There is variation of ALS symptoms within families carrying the same mutation; the disease may develop in one sibling and not in another despite the presence of the mutation in both. Although the cause of this phenotypic variation is unknown, it is likely related to genetic modifiers of disease expression. The identification of ALS causing genes has led to the development of transgenic mouse models of motor neuron disease. Similar to families with familial ALS, there are background-dependent differences in disease phenotype in transgenic mouse models of ALS suggesting that, as in human ALS, differences in phenotype may be ascribed to genetic modifiers. These genetic modifiers may not cause ALS rather their expression either exacerbates or ameliorates the effect of the mutant ALS causing genes. We have reported that in both the G93A-hSOD1 and G59S-hDCTN1 mouse models, SJL mice demonstrated a more severe phenotype than C57BL6 mice. From reciprocal intercrosses between G93A-hSOD1 transgenic mice on SJL and C57BL6 strains, we identified a major quantitative trait locus (QTL) on mouse chromosome 17 that results in a significant shift in lifespan. In this study we generated reciprocal intercrosses between transgenic G59S-hDCTN1 mice on SJL and C57BL6 strains and identified survival QTLs on mouse chromosomes 17 and 18. The chromosome 17 survival QTL on G93A-hSOD1 and G59S-hDCTN1 mice partly overlap, suggesting that the genetic modifiers located in this region may be shared by these two ALS models despite the fact that motor neuron degeneration is caused by mutations in different proteins. The overlapping region contains eighty-seven genes with non-synonymous variations predicted to be deleterious and/or damaging. Two genes in this segment, NOTCH3 and Safb/SAFB1, have been associated with motor neuron disease. The identification of genetic modifiers of motor neuron disease, especially those modifiers that are shared by SOD1 and dynactin-1 transgenic mice, may result in the identification of novel targets for therapies that can alter the course of this devastating illness.