Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a rapidly progressive neurodegenerative disease characterised by the accumulation of aggregated proteins, microglia activation and motor neuron loss. The mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration and disease progression in ALS are unknown, but the ATP-gated P2X7 receptor channel is implicated in this disease. Therefore, the current study aimed to examine P2X7 in the context of neurodegeneration, and investigate whether the P2X7 antagonist, Brilliant Blue G (BBG), could alter disease progression in a murine model of ALS.
Human SOD1G93A transgenic mice, which normally develop ALS, were injected with BBG or saline, three times per week, from pre-onset of clinical disease (62–64 days of age) until end-stage. During the course of treatment mice were assessed for weight, clinical score and survival, and motor coordination, which was assessed by rotarod performance. Various parameters from end-stage mice were assessed as follows. Motor neuron loss and microgliosis were assessed by immunohistochemistry. Relative amounts of lumbar spinal cord SOD1 and P2X7 were quantified by immunoblotting. Serum monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 was measured by ELISA. Splenic leukocyte populations were assessed by flow cytometry. Relative expression of splenic and hepatic P2X7 mRNA was measured by quantitative real-time PCR. Lumbar spinal cord SOD1 and P2X7 were also quantified by immunoblotting in untreated female SOD1G93A mice during the course of disease.
BBG treatment reduced body weight loss in SOD1G93A mice of combined sex, but had no effect on clinical score, survival or motor coordination. BBG treatment reduced body weight loss in female, but not male, SOD1G93A mice. BBG treatment also prolonged survival in female, but not male, SOD1G93A mice, extending the mean survival time by 4.3% in female mice compared to female mice treated with saline. BBG treatment had no effect on clinical score or motor coordination in either sex. BBG treatment had no major effect on any end-stage parameters. Total amounts of lumbar spinal cord SOD1 and P2X7 in untreated female SOD1G93A mice did not change over time.
Collectively, this data suggests P2X7 may have a partial role in ALS progression in mice, but additional research is required to fully elucidate the contribution of this receptor in this disease.