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Degenerative Neurological and Neuromuscular Disease


Introduction: The symptoms of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) include muscle weakness and eventual paralysis. These symptoms result from denervation of the neuromuscular junction (NMJ) and motor neuron cell death in the brain and spinal cord. Due to the "dying back" pattern of motor neuron degeneration, protecting NMJs should be a therapeutic priority. Although exercise has the potential to protect against NMJ denervation, its use in ALS has been controversial. Most preclinical studies have focused on aerobic exercise, which report that exercise can be beneficial at moderate intensities. The effects of resistance exercise on NMJ preservation in limb muscles have not been explored.

Methods: We trained male SOD1-G93A rats, which model ALS, to perform a unilateral isometric forelimb resistance exercise task. This task allows within-animal comparisons of trained and untrained forelimbs. We then determined the effects of isometric resistance exercise on NMJ denervation and AMP kinase (AMPK) activation in forelimb muscles.

Results: Our results revealed that SOD1-G93A rats were able to learn and perform the task similarly to wildtype rats, even after loss of body weight. SOD1-G93A rats exhibited significantly greater NMJ innervation in their trained vs their untrained forelimb biceps muscles. Measures of activated (phosphorylated) AMPK (pAMPK) were also greater in the trained vs untrained forelimb triceps muscles.

Discussion: These results demonstrate that isometric resistance exercise may protect against NMJ denervation in ALS. Future studies are required to determine the extent to which our findings generalize to female SOD1-G93A rats and to other subtypes of ALS.



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strength training, resistance, isometric, neuromuscular, ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis