Induction of Survival of Motor Neuron (SMN) Protein Deficiency in Spinal Astrocytes by Small Interfering RNA as an In Vitro Model of Spinal Muscular Atrophy

Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a motor neuron disorder leading to progressive loss of ventral horn neurons resulting in muscle wasting. Here we investigate the contribution of spinal astrocytes to the pathogenesis of late-onset SMA forms using a mouse model. Furthermore, we generated SMA-like astrocytes using survival of motor neuron (SMN) siRNA transfection techniques. In the SMA mouse model, the activation of spinal astrocytes and the reduction of the inward rectifier potassium channel Kir4.1 and excitatory amino acid transporter 1 (EAAT1) were observed at postnatal day (P) 28, preceding the loss of spinal motor neurons appearing earliest at P42. Using SMA-like astrocytes, we could mimic the modulation of spinal astrocytes of the mouse model in a dish and perform electrophysiological assessments and functional assays. In SMA-like astrocytes, glutamate uptake was diminished due to a reduction in EAAT1. Furthermore, patch-clamp measurements revealed reduced potassium uptake into astrocytes with membrane depolarization. Additionally, exposure of healthy spinal motor neurons to a conditioned medium of SMA-like astrocytes resulted in increased firing frequency. These data demonstrate spinal astrocytes’ crucial role in the late-onset SMA forms’ pathogenesis.


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