There is substantial evidence that both inflammation and oxidative damage contribute to the pathogenesis of motor neuron degeneration in the G93A SOD1 transgenic mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Celastrol is a natural product from Southern China, which exerts potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidative effects. It also acts potently to increase expression of heat shock proteins including HSP70. We administered it in the diet to G93A SOD1 mice starting at 30 days of age. Celastrol treatment significantly improved weight loss, motor performance and delayed the onset of ALS. Survival of celastrol-treated G93A mice increased by 9.4% and 13% for 2 mg/kg/day and 8 mg/kg/day doses, respectively. Cell counts of lumbar spinal cord neurons confirmed a protective effect, i.e. 30% increase in neuronal number in the lumbar spinal cords of celastrol-treated animals. Celastrol treatment reduced TNF-α, iNOS, CD40, and GFAP immunoreactivity in the lumbar spinal cord sections of celastrol-treated G93A mice compared to untreated G93A mice. TNF-α immunoreactivity co-localized with SMI-32 (neuronal marker) and GFAP (astrocyte marker). HSP70 immunoreactivity was increased in lumbar spinal cord neurons of celastrol-treated G93A mice. Celastrol has been widely used in treating inflammatory diseases in man, and is well tolerated; therefore, it may be a promising therapeutic candidate for the treatment of human ALS.

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