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Nucleic Acids Res. 2008 Apr;36(7):e38. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkn084. Epub 2008 Mar 10.

Elevated alpha-synuclein mRNA levels in individual UV-laser-microdissected dopaminergic substantia nigra neurons in idiopathic Parkinson's disease.

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  • 1Molecular Neurobiology, Department of Physiology, Philipps-University Marburg, Deutschhausstrasse 2, 35037 Marburg, Germany.


The presynaptic protein alpha-synuclein is involved in several neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson's disease (PD). In rare familial forms of PD, causal mutations (PARK1) as well as multiplications (PARK4) of the alpha-synuclein gene have been identified. In sporadic, idiopathic PD, abnormal accumulation and deposition of alpha-synuclein might also cause degeneration of dopaminergic midbrain neurons, the clinically most relevant neuronal population in PD. Thus, cell-specific quantification of alpha-synuclein expression-levels in dopaminergic neurons from idiopathic PD patients in comparison to controls would provide essential information about contributions of alpha-synuclein to the etiology of PD. However, a number of previous studies addressing this question at the tissue-level yielded varying results regarding alpha-synuclein expression. To increase specificity, we developed a cell-specific approach for mRNA quantification that also took into account the important issue of variable RNA integrities of the individual human postmortem brain samples. We demonstrate that PCR -amplicon size can confound quantitative gene-expression analysis, in particular of partly degraded RNA. By combining optimized UV-laser microdissection- and quantitative RT-PCR-techniques with suitable PCR assays, we detected significantly elevated alpha-synuclein mRNA levels in individual, surviving neuromelanin- and tyrosine hydroxylase-positive substantia nigra dopaminergic neurons from idiopathic PD brains compared to controls. These results strengthen the pathophysiologic role of transcriptional dysregulation of the alpha-synuclein gene in sporadic PD.

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