Activating mitofusins interrupts mitochondrial degeneration and delays disease progression in SOD1 mutant amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Xiawei Dang, Lihong Zhang, Antonietta Franco, Gerald W. Dorn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Mitochondrial involvement in neurodegenerative diseases is widespread and multifactorial. Targeting mitochondrial pathology is therefore of interest. The recent development of bioactive molecules that modulate mitochondrial dynamics (fusion, fission and motility) offers a new therapeutic approach for neurodegenerative diseases with either indirect or direct mitochondrial involvement. Here, we asked: (1) Can enhanced mitochondrial fusion and motility improve secondary mitochondrial pathology in superoxide dismutase1 (SOD1) mutant amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)? And: (2) What is the impact of enhancing mitochondria fitness on in vivo manifestations of SOD1 mutant ALS? We observed that small molecule mitofusin activators corrected mitochondrial fragmentation, depolarization and dysmotility in genetically diverse ALS patient reprogrammed motor neurons and fibroblasts, and in motor neurons, sensory neurons and fibroblasts from SOD1 G93A mice. Continuous, but not intermittent, pharmacologic mitofusin activation delayed phenotype progression and lethality in SOD1 G93A mice, reducing neuron loss and improving neuromuscular connectivity. Mechanistically, mitofusin activation increased mitochondrial motility, fitness and residency within neuromuscular synapses; reduced mitochondrial reactive oxygen species production; and diminished apoptosis in SOD1 mutant neurons. These benefits were accompanied by improved mitochondrial respiratory coupling, despite characteristic SOD1 mutant ALS-associated downregulation of mitochondrial respiratory complexes. Targeting mitochondrial dysdynamism is a promising approach to alleviate pathology caused by secondary mitochondrial dysfunction in some neurodegenerative diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1208-1222
Number of pages15
JournalHuman molecular genetics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2023


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