Targeting the Mitochondrial Protein VDAC1 as a Potential Therapeutic Strategy in ALS

Anna Shteinfer-Kuzmine, Shirel Argueti-Ostrovsky, Marcel F. Leyton-Jaimes, Uttpal Anand, Salah Abu-Hamad, Ran Zalk, Varda Shoshan-Barmatz, Adrian Israelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Impaired mitochondrial function has been proposed as a causative factor in neurodegenerative diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), caused by motor neuron degeneration. Mutations in superoxide dismutase (SOD1) cause ALS and SOD1 mutants were shown to interact with the voltage-dependent anion channel 1 (VDAC1), affecting its normal function. VDAC1 is a multi-functional channel located at the outer mitochondrial membrane that serves as a mitochondrial gatekeeper controlling metabolic and energetic crosstalk between mitochondria and the rest of the cell and it is a key player in mitochondria-mediated apoptosis. Previously, we showed that VDAC1 interacts with SOD1 and that the VDAC1-N-terminal-derived peptide prevented mutant SOD1 cytotoxic effects. In this study, using a peptide array, we identified the SOD1 sequence that interacts with VDAC1. Synthetic peptides generated from the identified VDAC1-binding sequences in SOD1 directly interacted with purified VDAC1. We also show that VDAC1 oligomerization increased in spinal cord mitochondria isolated from mutant SOD1G93A mice and rats. Thus, we used the novel VDAC1-specific small molecules, VBIT-4 and VBIT-12, inhibiting VDAC1 oligomerization and subsequently apoptosis and associated processes such as ROS production, and increased cytosolic Ca2+. VBIT-12 was able to rescue cell death induced by mutant SOD1 in neuronal cultures. Finally, although survival was not affected, VBIT-12 administration significantly improved muscle endurance in mutant SOD1G93A mice. Therefore, VBIT-12 may represent an attractive therapy for maintaining muscle function during the progression of ALS.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9946
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number17
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2022


  • ALS
  • apoptosis
  • misfolded proteins
  • mitochondria
  • mutant SOD1
  • VDAC1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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