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J Biol Chem. 2006 Jan 6;281(1):334-40. Epub 2005 Oct 31.

Familial Parkinson mutant alpha-synuclein causes dopamine neuron dysfunction in transgenic Caenorhabditis elegans.

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Department of Neuropathology and Neuroscience, Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Tokyo, Hongo Bunkyoku Tokyo, 113-0033 Japan.


Mutations in alpha-synuclein gene cause familial form of Parkinson disease, and deposition of wild-type alpha-synuclein as Lewy bodies occurs as a hallmark lesion of sporadic Parkinson disease and dementia with Lewy bodies, implicating alpha-synuclein in the pathogenesis of Parkinson disease and related neurodegenerative diseases. Dopamine neurons in substantia nigra are the major site of neurodegeneration associated with alpha-synuclein deposition in Parkinson disease. Here we establish transgenic Caenorhabditis elegans (TG worms) that overexpresses wild-type or familial Parkinson mutant human alpha-synuclein in dopamine neurons. The TG worms exhibit accumulation of alpha-synuclein in the cell bodies and neurites of dopamine neurons, and EGFP labeling of dendrites is often diminished in TG worms expressing familial Parkinson disease-linked A30P or A53T mutant alpha-synuclein, without overt loss of neuronal cell bodies. Notably, TG worms expressing A30P or A53T mutant alpha-synuclein show failure in modulation of locomotory rate in response to food, which has been attributed to the function of dopamine neurons. This behavioral abnormality was accompanied by a reduction in neuronal dopamine content and was treatable by administration of dopamine. These phenotypes were not seen upon expression of beta-synuclein. The present TG worms exhibit dopamine neuron-specific dysfunction caused by accumulation of alpha-synuclein, which would be relevant to the genetic and compound screenings aiming at the elucidation of pathological cascade and therapeutic strategies for Parkinson disease.

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