Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is the most frequent adult-onset motor neuron disease, and recent evidence has suggested that endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress signaling is involved in the pathogenesis of ALS. Here we identified a small molecule, SUN N8075, which has a marked protective effect on ER stress-induced cell death, in an in vitro cell-based screening, and its protective mechanism was mediated by an induction of VGF nerve growth factor inducible (VGF): VGF knockdown with siRNA completely abolished the protective effect of SUN N8075 against ER-induced cell death, and overexpression of VGF inhibited ER-stress-induced cell death. VGF level was lower in the spinal cords of sporadic ALS patients than in the control patients. Furthermore, SUN N8075 slowed disease progression and prolonged survival in mutant SOD1 transgenic mouse and rat models of ALS, preventing the decrease of VGF expression in the spinal cords of ALS mice. These data suggest that VGF plays a critical role in motor neuron survival and may be a potential new therapeutic target for ALS, and SUN N8075 may become a potential therapeutic candidate for treatment of ALS.
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