Transgenic mice with Cu,Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD-1) mutations provide a unique model to examine altered Ca homeostasis in selectively vulnerable and resistant motoneurons. In degenerating spinal motoneurons of G93 A SOD-1 mice, developing vacuoles were filled with calcium, while calcium was gradually depleted from the cytoplasm and intact mitochondria. In oculomotor neurons, no degenerative changes, vacuolization, or increased calcium were noted. Motor axon terminals of interosseus muscle gradually degenerated and intracellular calcium was depleted. Oculomotor terminals of mutant SOD-1 mice were smaller and exhibited no degenerative changes, but did exhibit unique membrane-enclosed organelles containing calcium. Spinal motoneurons of SOD-1 mice were shown to have fewer calcium binding proteins, such as par-valbumin, compared with oculomotor neurons. These data suggest that the SOD-1 mutation is associated with impaired calcium homeostasis in motoneurons in vivo, with increased likelihood of degeneration associated with higher levels of intracellular calcium and lower to absent levels of calbindin-D28K and/or parvalbumin, and decreased likelihood of degeneration associated with minimally changed calcium and ample calbindin-D28K and/or parvalbumin.

Author notes

This work was supported by grants from The Hungarian Ministry of Welfare (T-04 579/93, 04 531/97), National Scientific and Research Fund of Hungary (OTKA T 017434, 026239), the FIRCA, the NIH (NS33186), the MDA, the US-Hungarian Science & Technology Joint Fund (JF# 661), and Cephalon, Inc.