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The molecular tweezer CLR01 inhibits aberrant superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) self-assembly in vitro and in the G93A-SOD1 mouse model of ALS.


Mutations in superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) cause 15-20% of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (fALS) cases. The resulting amino acid substitutions destabilize SOD1's protein structure, leading to its self-assembly into neurotoxic oligomers and aggregates, a process hypothesized to cause the characteristic motor-neuron degeneration in affected individuals. Currently, effective disease-modifying therapy is not available for ALS. Molecular tweezers prevent formation of toxic protein assemblies, yet their protective action has not been tested previously on SOD1 or in the context of ALS. Here, we tested the molecular tweezer CLR01-a broad-spectrum inhibitor of the self-assembly and toxicity of amyloid proteins-as a potential therapeutic agent for ALS. Using recombinant WT and mutant SOD1, we found that CLR01 inhibited the aggregation of all tested SOD1 forms in vitro Next, we examined whether CLR01 could prevent the formation of misfolded SOD1 in the G93A-SOD1 mouse model of ALS and whether such inhibition would have a beneficial therapeutic effect. CLR01 treatment decreased misfolded SOD1 in the spinal cord significantly. However, these histological findings did not correlate with improvement of the disease phenotype. A small, dose-dependent decrease in disease duration was found in CLR01-treated mice, relative to vehicle-treated animals, yet motor function did not improve in any of the treatment groups. These results demonstrate that CLR01 can inhibit SOD1 misfolding and aggregation both in vitro and in vivo, but raise the question whether such inhibition is sufficient for achieving a therapeutic effect. Additional studies in other less aggressive ALS models may be needed to determine the therapeutic potential of this approach.

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