Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: Proteins, Proteostasis, Prions, and Promises

Luke McAlary, Yee Lian Chew, Jeremy Stephen Lum, Nicholas John Geraghty, Justin John Yerbury, Neil R. Cashman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is characterized by the progressive degeneration of the motor neurons that innervate muscle, resulting in gradual paralysis and culminating in the inability to breathe or swallow. This neuronal degeneration occurs in a spatiotemporal manner from a point of onset in the central nervous system (CNS), suggesting that there is a molecule that spreads from cell-to-cell. There is strong evidence that the onset and progression of ALS pathology is a consequence of protein misfolding and aggregation. In line with this, a hallmark pathology of ALS is protein deposition and inclusion formation within motor neurons and surrounding glia of the proteins TAR DNA-binding protein 43, superoxide dismutase-1, or fused in sarcoma. Collectively, the observed protein aggregation, in conjunction with the spatiotemporal spread of symptoms, strongly suggests a prion-like propagation of protein aggregation occurs in ALS. In this review, we discuss the role of protein aggregation in ALS concerning protein homeostasis (proteostasis) mechanisms and prion-like propagation. Furthermore, we examine the experimental models used to investigate these processes, including in vitro assays, cultured cells, invertebrate models, and murine models. Finally, we evaluate the therapeutics that may best prevent the onset or spread of pathology in ALS and discuss what lies on the horizon for treating this currently incurable disease.

Original languageEnglish
Article number581907
Number of pages36
JournalFrontiers in Cellular Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • amyotrophic lateral scelerosis
  • in vitro models
  • invertebrate models
  • mouse models
  • prion-like
  • protein aggregation
  • proteostasis
  • therapeutics


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