Dysregulated neuronal excitability is a hallmark of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). We sought to investigate how functional changes to the axon initial segment (AIS), the site of action potential generation, could impact neuronal excitability in ALS human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC) motor neurons. We find that early TDP-43 and C9orf72 hiPSC motor neurons show an increase in the length of the AIS and impaired activity-dependent AIS plasticity that is linked to abnormal homeostatic regulation of neuronal activity and intrinsic hyperexcitability. In turn, these hyperactive neurons drive increased spontaneous myofiber contractions of in vitro hiPSC motor units. In contrast, late hiPSC and postmortem ALS motor neurons show AIS shortening, and hiPSC motor neurons progress to hypoexcitability. At a molecular level, aberrant expression of the AIS master scaffolding protein ankyrin-G and AIS-specific voltage-gated sodium channels mirror these dynamic changes in AIS function and excitability. Our results point toward the AIS as an important site of dysfunction in ALS motor neurons.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113509
JournalCell Reports
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 26 Dec 2023


  • ALS
  • axon initial segment
  • C9orf72
  • CP: Neuroscience
  • fasciculations
  • homeostatic plasticity
  • human iPSC
  • hyperexcitability
  • motor neuron
  • motor unit
  • optogenetic
  • TDP-43


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