Activated protein C (APC) is a signaling protease with anticoagulant activity. Here, we have used mice expressing a mutation in superoxide dismutase-1 (SOD1) that is linked to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) to show that administration of APC or APC analogs with reduced anticoagulant activity after disease onset slows disease progression and extends survival. A proteolytically inactive form of APC with reduced anticoagulant activity provided no benefit. APC crossed the blood-spinal cord barrier in mice via endothelial protein C receptor. When administered after disease onset, APC eliminated leakage of hemoglobin-derived products across the blood-spinal cord barrier and delayed microglial activation. In microvessels, motor neurons, and microglial cells from SOD1-mutant mice and in cultured neuronal cells, APC transcriptionally downregulated SOD1. Inhibition of SOD1 synthesis in neuronal cells by APC required protease-activated receptor-1 (PAR1) and PAR3, which inhibited nuclear transport of the Sp1 transcription factor. Diminished mutant SOD1 synthesis by selective gene excision within endothelial cells did not alter disease progression, which suggests that diminished mutant SOD1 synthesis in other cells, including motor neurons and microglia, caused the APC-mediated slowing of disease. The delayed disease progression in mice after APC administration suggests that this approach may be of benefit to patients with familial, and possibly sporadic, ALS.
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