Protein disulphide isomerase protects against protein aggregation and is S-nitrosylated in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Adam K. Walker, Manal A. Farg, Chris R. Bye, Catriona A. McLean, Malcolm K. Horne, Julie D. Atkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

144 Citations (Scopus)


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a rapidly progressing fatal neurodegenerative disease characterized by the presence of protein inclusions within affected motor neurons. Endoplasmic reticulum stress leading to apoptosis was recently recognized to be an important process in the pathogenesis of sporadic human amyotrophic lateral sclerosis as well as in transgenic models of mutant superoxide dismutase 1-linked familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Endoplasmic reticulum stress occurs early in disease, indicating a critical role in pathogenesis, and involves upregulation of an important endoplasmic reticulum chaperone, protein disulphide isomerase. We aimed to investigate the involvement of protein disulphide isomerase in endoplasmic reticulum stress induction, protein aggregation, inclusion formation and toxicity in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Motor neuron-like NSC-34 cell lines were transfected with superoxide dismutase 1 and protein disulphide isomerase encoding vectors and small interfering RNA, and examined by immunocytochemistry and immunoblotting. Expression of mutant superoxide dismutase 1 induced endoplasmic reticulum stress, predominantly in cells bearing mutant superoxide dismutase 1 inclusions but also in a proportion of cells expressing mutant superoxide dismutase 1 without visible inclusions. Over-expression of protein disulphide isomerase decreased mutant superoxide dismutase 1 aggregation, inclusion formation, endoplasmic reticulum stress induction and toxicity, whereas small interfering RNA targeting protein disulphide isomerase increased mutant superoxide dismutase 1 inclusion formation, indicating a protective role for protein disulphide isomerase against superoxide dismutase 1 misfolding. Aberrant modification of protein disulphide isomerase by S-nitrosylation of active site cysteine residues has previously been shown as an important process in neurodegeneration in Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease brain tissue, but has not been described in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Using a biotin switch assay, we detected increased levels of S-nitrosylated protein disulphide isomerase in transgenic mutant superoxide dismutase 1 mouse and human sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis spinal cord tissues. Hence, despite upregulation, protein disulphide isomerase is also functionally inactivated in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which may prevent its normal protective function and contribute to disease. We also found that a small molecule mimic of the protein disulphide isomerase active site, (±)-trans-1,2-bis(mercaptoacetamido)cyclohexane, protected against mutant superoxide dismutase 1 inclusion formation. These studies reveal that endoplasmic reticulum stress is important in the formation of mutant superoxide dismutase 1 inclusions, and protein disulphide isomerase has an important function in ameliorating mutant superoxide dismutase 1 aggregation and toxicity. Functional inhibition of protein disulphide isomerase by S-nitrosylation may contribute to pathophysiology in both mutant superoxide dismutase 1-linked disease and sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Protein disulphide isomerase is therefore a novel potential therapeutic target in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and (±)-trans-1,2-bis(mercaptoacetamido) cyclohexane and other molecular mimics of protein disulphide isomerase could be of benefit in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and other neurodegenerative diseases related to protein misfolding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-116
Number of pages12
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes


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