GluR2 is a subunit of the AMPA receptor, and the adenosine for the Q/R site of its pre-mRNA is converted to inosine (A-to-I conversion) by the enzyme called adenosine deaminase acting on RNA 2 (ADAR2). Failure of A-to-I conversion at this site affects multiple AMPA receptor properties, including the Ca 2+ permeability of the receptor-coupled ion channel, thereby inducing fatal epilepsy in mice (Brusa et al., 1995; Feldmeyer et al., 1999). In addition, inefficient GluR2 Q/R site editing is a disease-specific molecular dysfunction found in the motor neurons of sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients (Kawahara et al., 2004). Here, we generated genetically modified mice (designated as AR2) in which the ADAR2 gene was conditionally targeted in motor neurons using the Cre/loxP system. These AR2 mice showed a decline in motor function commensurate with the slow death of ADAR2-deficient motor neurons in the spinal cord and cranial motor nerve nuclei. Notably, neurons in nuclei of oculomotor nerves, which often escape degeneration in ALS, were not decreased in number despite a significant decrease in GluR2 Q/R site editing. All cellular and phenotypic changes in AR2 mice were prevented when the mice carried endogenous GluR2 alleles engineered to express edited GluR2 without ADAR2 activity (Higuchi et al., 2000). Thus, loss of ADAR2 activity causes AMPA receptor-mediated death of motor neurons.
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