McGovern, V.L., Gavrilina, T.O., Beattie, C.E., and Burghes, A.H. (2008) Embryonic motor axon development in the severe SMA mouse. Human molecular genetics. 17(18):2900-2909.
Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) is caused by reduced levels of Survival Motor Neuron (SMN) protein. Previously, cultured SMA motor neurons showed reduced growth cone size and axonal length. Furthermore, reduction of SMN in zebrafish resulted in truncation followed by branching of motor neuron axons. In this study, motor neurons labeled with GFP were examined in SMA mice from embryonic day 10.5 (e10.5) to postnatal day two (PND02). SMA motor axons showed no defect in axonal formation or outgrowth at any stage of development. However, a significant increase in synapses lacking motor axon input was detected in embryonic SMA mice. Therefore, one of the earliest detectable morphological defects in the SMA mice is the loss of synapse occupation by motor axons. This indicates that in severe SMA mice there are no defects in motor axon formation however, we find evidence of denervation in embryogenesis.