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J Neurobiol. 2002 Oct;53(1):1-10.

Overexpression of Parkinson's disease-associated alpha-synucleinA53T by recombinant adeno-associated virus in mice does not increase the vulnerability of dopaminergic neurons to MPTP.

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Institute of Molecular Biology, University of Zurich, CH-8057 Zurich, Switzerland.


Mutations in the alpha-synuclein gene are linked to a rare dominant form of familial Parkinson's disease, and alpha-synuclein is aggregated in Lewy bodies of both sporadic and dominant Parkinson's disease. It has been proposed that mutated alpha-synuclein causes dopaminergic neuron loss by enhancing the vulnerability of these neurons to a variety of insults, including oxidative stress, apoptotic stimuli, and selective dopaminergic neurotoxins, such as 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP). To test this hypothesis in vivo, we overexpressed human alpha-synuclein(A53T) in the substantia nigra of normal and MPTP-treated mice by rAAV-mediated gene transfer. Determination of dopaminergic neuron survival, striatal tyrosine hydroxylase fiber density, and striatal content of dopamine and its metabolites in rAAV-injected and uninjected hemispheres demonstrated that alpha-synuclein(A53T) does not increase the susceptibility of dopaminergic neurons to MPTP. Our findings argue against a direct detrimental role for (mutant) alpha-synuclein in oxidative stress and/or apoptotic pathways triggered by MPTP, but do not rule out the possibility that alpha-synuclein aggregation in neurons exposed to oxidative stress for long periods of time may be neurotoxic.

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