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J Neurochem. 2007 Mar;100(6):1449-57. Epub 2007 Jan 4.

Dopaminergic neuron loss and up-regulation of chaperone protein mRNA induced by targeted over-expression of alpha-synuclein in mouse substantia nigra.

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  • 1Alzheimer's Disease Research Unit, MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease, Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown, Massachusetts 02129, USA.


Several transgenic mouse lines with altered alpha-synuclein expression have been developed that show a variety of Parkinson's disease-like symptoms without specific loss of dopaminergic neurons. Targeted over-expression of human alpha-synuclein using viral-vector mediated gene delivery into the substantia nigra of rats and non-human primates leads to dopaminergic cell loss and the formation of alpha-synuclein aggregates reminiscent of Lewy bodies. In the context of these recent findings, we used adeno-associated virus (AAV) to over-express wild type human alpha-synuclein in the substantia nigra of mice. We hypothesized that this over-expression would recapitulate pathological hallmarks of Parkinson's disease, creating a mouse model to further characterize the disease pathogenesis. Recombinant AAV expressing alpha-synuclein was stereotaxically injected into the substantia nigra of mice, leading to a 25% reduction of dopaminergic neurons after 24 weeks of transduction. Furthermore, examination of mRNA levels of stress-related proteins using laser capture microdissection and quantitative PCR revealed a positive correlation of Hsp27 expression with the extent of viral transduction at 4 weeks and a positive correlation of Hsp40, Hsp70 and caspase 9 with the extent of viral transduction at 24 weeks. Taken together, our findings suggest that targeted over-expression of alpha-synuclein can induce pathology at the gross anatomical and molecular level in the substantia nigra, providing a mouse model in which upstream changes in Parkinson's disease pathogenesis can be further elucidated.

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