Forsberg KM, Graffmo KS, Stenvall E, Tabikh N, Marklund SL, Brännström T, Andersen PM
Acta Neuropathol 145 (1) 13-28 [2023-01-00; online 2022-11-16]
Mutations in the gene encoding the ubiquitously expressed free radical scavenging enzyme superoxide dismutase-1 (SOD1) are found in 2-6% of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients. The most frequent SOD1 mutation worldwide is D90A. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis caused by this mutation has some unusual features: the heredity is usually recessive, the phenotype is stereotypic with slowly evolving motor symptoms beginning in the legs and may also include sensory, autonomic, and urinary bladder involvement. Furthermore, the mutant protein resembles the wild type, with normal content and enzymatic activity in the central nervous system. Here, we report neuropathological findings in nine patients homozygous for the D90A mutation. All nine had numerous small granular inclusions immunoreactive for misfolded SOD1 in motor neurons and glial nuclei in the spinal cord and brainstem. In addition to degeneration of the corticospinal tracts, all patients had degeneration of the dorsal columns. We also found intense gliosis in circumscribed cortical areas of the frontal and temporal lobes and in the insula. In these areas and in adjacent white matter, there were SOD1 staining neuropil threads. A few SOD1-immunopositive cytoplasmic neuronal inclusions were observed in cortical areas, as were glial nuclear inclusions. As suggested by the symptoms and signs and earlier neurophysiological and imaging investigations, the histopathology in patients homozygous for the D90A SOD1 extends beyond the motor system to include cognitive and sensory cortical areas. However, even in the patients that had a symptomatic disease duration of more than 2 or 3 decades and lived into their 70s or 80s, there were no SOD1-inclusion pathology and no typical dysfunction (apart from the musculature) in non-nervous organs. Thus, only specific parts of the CNS seem to be vulnerable to toxicity provoked by homozygously expressed mutant SOD1.