Induction of Nitric Oxide -- Dependent Apoptosis in Motor Neurons by Zinc-Deficient Superoxide Dismutase

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Science  24 Dec 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5449, pp. 2498-2500
DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5449.2498

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Mutations in copper, zinc superoxide dismutase (SOD) have been implicated in the selective death of motor neurons in 2 percent of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients. The loss of zinc from either wild-type or ALS-mutant SODs was sufficient to induce apoptosis in cultured motor neurons. Toxicity required that copper be bound to SOD and depended on endogenous production of nitric oxide. When replete with zinc, neither ALS-mutant nor wild-type copper, zinc SODs were toxic, and both protected motor neurons from trophic factor withdrawal. Thus, zinc-deficient SOD may participate in both sporadic and familial ALS by an oxidative mechanism involving nitric oxide.

  • * These authors contributed equally to this paper.

  • To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: joe.beckman{at}

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