Leaky intestine and impaired microbiome in an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis mouse model

Shaoping Wu, Jianxun Yi, Yong Guo Zhang, Jingsong Zhou, Jun Sun

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167 Scopus citations


Emerging evidence has demonstrated that intestinal homeostasis and the microbiome play essential roles in neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease characterized by a progressive loss of motor neurons and muscle atrophy. Currently, there is no effective treatment. Most patients die within 3–5 years due to respiratory paralysis. Although the death of motor neurons is a hallmark of ALS, other organs may also contribute to the disease progression. We examined the gut of an ALS mouse model, G93A, which expresses mutant superoxide dismutase (SOD1G93A), and discovered a damaged tight junction structure and increased permeability with a significant reduction in the expression levels of tight junction protein ZO-1 and the adherens junction protein E-cadherin. Furthermore, our data demonstrated increased numbers of abnormal Paneth cells in the intestine of G93A mice. Paneth cells are specialized intestinal epithelial cells that can sense microbes and secrete antimicrobial peptides, thus playing key roles in host innate immune responses and shaping the gut microbiome. A decreased level of the antimicrobial peptides defensin 5 alpha was indeed found in the ALS intestine. These changes were associated with a shifted profile of the intestinal microbiome, including reduced levels of Butyrivibrio Fibrisolvens, Escherichia coli, and Fermicus, in G93A mice. The relative abundance of bacteria was shifted in G93A mice compared to wild-type mice. Principal coordinate analysis indicated a difference in fecal microbial communities between ALS and wild-type mice. Taken together, our study suggests a potential novel role of the intestinal epithelium and microbiome in the progression of ALS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12356
JournalPhysiological Reports
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The data in this manuscript have not been published elsewhere. This work was supported by the NIDDK (KO1 DK075386 and 1R03DK089010-01) to Jun Sun, and NIAMS/National Institutes of Health Grant R01 AR057404 to Jingsong Zhou. Funder plays no role in the design and conduct of the study, in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of the data, and in the preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 The Authors.


  • Antimicrobial peptides
  • Autophagy
  • Cell biology
  • Dysbiosis
  • Intestinal permeability
  • Microbiome
  • Paneth cells
  • Signal transduction
  • Tight junction
  • ZO-1


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