SOD1´s Law : An Investigation of ALS Provoking Properties in SOD1

Abstract: Proteins are the most important molecules in the cell since they take care of most of the biological functions which resemble life. To ensure that everything is working properly the cell has a rigorous control system to monitor the proper function of its proteins and sends old or dysfunctional proteins for degradation. Unfortunately, this system sometimes fails and the once so vital proteins start to misbehave or to accumulate and in the worst case scenario these undesired processes cause the death of their host. One example is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS); a progressive and always fatal neurodegenerative disorder that is proposed to derive from accumulation of aberrant proteins. Over 140 mutations in the human gene encoding the cytosolic homodimeric enzyme Cu/Zn-Superoxide Dismutase (SOD1) are linked to ALS. The key event in SOD1 associated ALS seems to be the pathological formation of toxic protein aggregates as a result of initially unfolded or partly structured SOD1-mutants. Here, we have compared the folding behaviour of a set of ALS associated SOD1 mutants. Based on our findings we propose that SOD1 mediated ALS can be triggered by a decrease in protein stability but also by mutations which reduce the net charge of the protein. Both findings are in good agreement with the hypothesis for protein aggregation. SOD1 has also been found to be able to interact with mitochondrial membranes and SOD1 inclusions have been detected in the inter-membrane space of mitochondria originating from the spinal cord. The obvious question then arose; does the misfolding and aggregation of SOD1 involve erroneous interactions with membranes? Here, we could show that there is an electrostatically driven interaction between the reduced apo SOD1 protein including ALS associated SOD1-mutants and charged lipid membrane surfaces. This association process changes the secondary structures of these mutants in a way quite different from the situation found in membrane free aqueous environment. However, the result show that mutants interact with charged lipid vesicles to lesser extent than wildtype SOD1. This opposes the correlation between decreased SOD1 stability and disease progression. We therefore suggest that the observed interaction is not a primary cause in the ALS mechanism.