Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a rapidly evolving and fatal adult-onset neurological disease characterized by progressive degeneration of motoneurons. Our previous study showed that glycinergic innervation of spinal motoneurons is deficient in an ALS mouse model expressing a mutant form of human superoxide dismutase-1 with a Gly93→Ala substitution (G93A-SOD1). In this study, we have examined, using whole-cell patch-clamp recordings, glycine receptor (GlyR)-mediated currents in spinal motoneurons from these transgenic mice. We developed a dissociated spinal cord culture model using embryonic transgenic mice expressing enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP) driven by the Hb9 promoter. Motoneurons were identified as Hb9-eGFP-expressing (Hb9-eGFP +) neurons with a characteristic morphology. To examine GlyRs in ALS motoneurons, we bred G93A-SOD1 mice to Hb9-eGFP mice and compared glycine-evoked currents in cultured Hb9-eGFP + motoneurons prepared from G93A-SOD1 embryos and from their nontransgenic littermates. Glycine-evoked current density was significantly smaller in the G93A-SOD1 motoneurons compared with control. Furthermore, the averaged current densities of spontaneous glycinergic miniature IPSCs (mIPSCs) were significantly smaller in the G93A-SOD1 motoneurons than in control motoneurons. No significant differences in GABA-induced currents and GABAergic mIPSCs were observed between G93A-SOD1 and control motoneurons. Quantitative single-cell reverse transcription-PCR found lower GlyRα1 subunit mRNA expression in G93A-SOD1 motoneurons, indicating that the reduction of GlyR current may result from the downregulation of GlyR mRNA expression in motoneurons. Immunocytochemistry demonstrated a decrease of surface postsynaptic GlyR on G93A-SOD1 motoneurons. Our study suggests that selective alterations in GlyR function contribute to inhibitory insufficiency in motoneurons early in the disease process of ALS.
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