Locomotor analysis identifies early compensatory changes during disease progression and subgroup classification in a mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Melissa M. Haulcomb, Rena M. Meadows, Whitney M. Miller, Kathryn P. McMillan, Mekenzie J. Hilsmeyer, Xuefu Wang, Wesley T. Beaulieu, Stephanie L. Dickinson, Todd J. Brown, Virginia M. Sanders, Kathryn J. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a motoneuron degenerative disease that is challenging to diagnose and presents with considerable variability in survival. Early identification and enhanced understanding of symptomatic patterns could aid in diagnosis and provide an avenue for monitoring disease progression. Use of the mSOD1G93A mouse model provides control of the confounding environmental factors and genetic heterogeneity seen in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients, while investigating underlying disease-induced changes. In the present study, we performed a longitudinal behavioral assessment paradigm and identified an early hindlimb symptom, resembling the common gait abnormality foot drop, along with an accompanying forelimb compensatory mechanism in the mSOD1G93A mouse. Following these initial changes, mSOD1 mice displayed a temporary hindlimb compensatory mechanism resembling an exaggerated steppage gait. As the disease progressed, these compensatory mechanisms were not sufficient to sustain fundamental locomotor parameters and more severe deficits appeared. We next applied these initial findings to investigate the inherent variability in B6SJL mSOD1G93A survival. We identified four behavioral variables that, when combined in a cluster analysis, identified two subpopulations with different disease progression rates: a fast progression group and a slow progression group. This behavioral assessment paradigm, with its analytical approaches, provides a method for monitoring disease progression and detecting mSOD1 subgroups with different disease severities. This affords researchers an opportunity to search for genetic modifiers or other factors that likely enhance or slow disease progression. Such factors are possible therapeutic targets with the potential to slow disease progression and provide insight into the underlying pathology and disease mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1664-1679
Number of pages16
JournalNeural Regeneration Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2017



  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Disease progression
  • Disease variability
  • Locomotor
  • Motoneuron degenerative disease
  • Nerve regeneration
  • Neural regeneration
  • SOD1 mouse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Neuroscience

Cite this

Haulcomb, M. M., Meadows, R. M., Miller, W. M., McMillan, K. P., Hilsmeyer, M. J., Wang, X., Beaulieu, W. T., Dickinson, S. L., Brown, T. J., Sanders, V. M., & Jones, K. J. (2017). Locomotor analysis identifies early compensatory changes during disease progression and subgroup classification in a mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Neural Regeneration Research, 12(10), 1664-1679. https://doi.org/10.4103/1673-5374.217346