Apoptotic cell death has recently been implicated in diseases involving nonproliferating, terminally differentiated cells such as neurons. Previous experiments have documented that immunoglobulins from patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) can kill motoneuron-neuroblastoma hybrid cells [ventral spinal cord 4.1 (VSC 4.1)] by a calcium-dependent process. Here, we studied the mechanism of ALS IgG-induced cell death. In the presence of ALS IgG the VSC 4.1 cells undergo cell shrinkage and membrane blebbing, which are morphological features of apoptotic cell death. The damaged cells can be identified by in situ end labeling of nicked DNA and biochemically show laddering on agarose gel electrophoresis. This ALS IgG-triggered process is prevented by cycloheximide, aurintricarboxylic acid, and zinc sulfate. These data demonstrate that immunoglobulins from patients with ALS are able to induce apoptosis in motoneuron hybrid cells and provide a potential mechanism for motoneuron degeneration in human ALS.
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