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Pathological α-Synuclein Transmission Initiates Parkinson-like Neurodegeneration in Nontransgenic Mice

Science  16 Nov 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6109, pp. 949-953
DOI: 10.1126/science.1227157

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Synthetic Parkinson's

Parkinson's disease (PD) and related α-synucleinopathies are defined by the accumulation of α-synuclein (α-Syn)–containing intraneuronal inclusions—Lewy bodies (LBs) and Lewy neurites (LNs)—in association with the loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNpc) and other brain regions. However, a cause-and-effect relationship between LB/LN formation and neurodegeneration remains unclear. Indeed, whether LB/LNs are toxic or represent a neuroprotective response has been contentious. Luk et al. (p. 949) injected α-Syn fibrils generated from recombinant mouse α-Syn protein into the dorsal striatum of wild-type mice and found that misfolded α-Syn caused the formation of PD-like LB/LNs and subsequent cell-to-cell transmission of pathologic α-Syn to anatomically interconnected regions, including the SNpc. Furthermore, the formation of LB/LNs and their accumulation in SNpc resulted in the progressive loss of these dopaminergic neurons, reduced dopamine innervations to the dorsal striatum, and culminated in motor deficits similar to PD. Thus, a synthetic misfolded wild-type protein (that is, α-Syn) was able to elicit and transmit disease pathology and neurodegeneration in healthy nontransgenic mice.

Abstract

Parkinson’s disease is characterized by abundant α-synuclein (α-Syn) neuronal inclusions, known as Lewy bodies and Lewy neurites, and the massive loss of midbrain dopamine neurons. However, a cause-and-effect relationship between Lewy inclusion formation and neurodegeneration remains unclear. Here, we found that in wild-type nontransgenic mice, a single intrastriatal inoculation of synthetic α-Syn fibrils led to the cell-to-cell transmission of pathologic α-Syn and Parkinson’s-like Lewy pathology in anatomically interconnected regions. Lewy pathology accumulation resulted in progressive loss of dopamine neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta, but not in the adjacent ventral tegmental area, and was accompanied by reduced dopamine levels culminating in motor deficits. This recapitulation of a neurodegenerative cascade thus establishes a mechanistic link between transmission of pathologic α-Syn and the cardinal features of Parkinson’s disease.

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