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PLoS Genet. 2008 Mar 21;4(3):e1000027. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1000027.

C. elegans model identifies genetic modifiers of alpha-synuclein inclusion formation during aging.

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  • 1Department of Genetics, University Medical Centre Groningen and University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.


Inclusions in the brain containing alpha-synuclein are the pathological hallmark of Parkinson's disease, but how these inclusions are formed and how this links to disease is poorly understood. We have developed a C. elegans model that makes it possible to monitor, in living animals, the formation of alpha-synuclein inclusions. In worms of old age, inclusions contain aggregated alpha- synuclein, resembling a critical pathological feature. We used genome-wide RNA interference to identify processes involved in inclusion formation, and identified 80 genes that, when knocked down, resulted in a premature increase in the number of inclusions. Quality control and vesicle-trafficking genes expressed in the ER/Golgi complex and vesicular compartments were overrepresented, indicating a specific role for these processes in alpha-synuclein inclusion formation. Suppressors include aging-associated genes, such as sir-2.1/SIRT1 and lagr-1/LASS2. Altogether, our data suggest a link between alpha-synuclein inclusion formation and cellular aging, likely through an endomembrane-related mechanism. The processes and genes identified here present a framework for further study of the disease mechanism and provide candidate susceptibility genes and drug targets for Parkinson's disease and other alpha-synuclein related disorders.

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