Autosomal recessive spastic ataxia of Charlevoix-Saguenay (ARSACS) is caused by mutations in SACS gene encoding sacsin, a huge protein highly expressed in cerebellar Purkinje cells (PCs). Patients with ARSACS, as well as mouse models, display early degeneration of PCs, but the underlying mechanisms remain unexplored, with no available treatments. In this work, we demonstrated aberrant calcium (Ca2+) homeostasis and its impact on PC degeneration in ARSACS. Mechanistically, we found pathological elevation in Ca2+-evoked responses in Sacs–/– PCs as the result of defective mitochondria and ER trafficking to distal dendrites and strong downregulation of key Ca2+ buffer proteins. Alteration of cytoskeletal linkers, which we identified as specific sacsin interactors, likely account for faulty organellar trafficking in Sacs–/– cerebellum. Based on this pathogenetic cascade, we treated Sacs–/– mice with Ceftriaxone, a repurposed drug that exerts neuroprotection by limiting neuronal glutamatergic stimulation and, thus, Ca2+ fluxes into PCs. Ceftriaxone treatment significantly improved motor performances of Sacs–/– mice, at both pre- and postsymptomatic stages. We correlated this effect to restored Ca2+ homeostasis, which arrests PC degeneration and attenuates secondary neuroinflammation. These findings disclose key steps in ARSACS pathogenesis and support further optimization of Ceftriaxone in preclinical and clinical settings for the treatment of patients with ARSACS.
Andrea Del Bondio, Fabiana Longo, Daniele De Ritis, Erica Spirito, Paola Podini, Bernard Brais, Angela Bachi, Angelo Quattrini, Francesca Maltecca