• Synaptic Defects in the Spinal and Neuromuscular Circuitry in a Mouse Model of Spinal Muscular Atrophy

      Ling, Karen K. Y.; Lin, Ming-Yi; Zingg, Brian; Feng, Zhihua; Ko, Chien-Ping; Mei, Lin; Department of Neurology; College of Graduate Studies (2010-11-11)
      Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a major genetic cause of death in childhood characterized by marked muscle weakness. To investigate mechanisms underlying motor impairment in SMA, we examined the spinal and neuromuscular circuitry governing hindlimb ambulatory behavior in SMA model mice (SMNÎ 7). In the neuromuscular circuitry, we found that nearly all neuromuscular junctions (NMJs) in hindlimb muscles of SMNÎ 7 mice remained fully innervated at the disease end stage and were capable of eliciting muscle contraction, despite a modest reduction in quantal content. In the spinal circuitry, we observed a â ¼28% loss of synapses onto spinal motoneurons in the lateral column of lumbar segments 3â 5, and a significant reduction in proprioceptive sensory neurons, which may contribute to the 50% reduction in vesicular glutamate transporter 1(VGLUT1)-positive synapses onto SMNÎ 7 motoneurons. In addition, there was an increase in the association of activated microglia with SMNÎ 7 motoneurons. Together, our results present a novel concept that synaptic defects occur at multiple levels of the spinal and neuromuscular circuitry in SMNÎ 7 mice, and that proprioceptive spinal synapses could be a potential target for SMA therapy.