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J Neurosci. 2009 Mar 18;29(11):3365-73. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5427-08.2009.

Dynamic changes in presynaptic and axonal transport proteins combined with striatal neuroinflammation precede dopaminergic neuronal loss in a rat model of AAV alpha-synucleinopathy.

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Neuroregeneration Laboratories, Harvard Medical School, McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts 02478, USA.


Little is known about key pathological events preceding overt neuronal degeneration in Parkinson's disease (PD) and alpha-synucleinopathy. Recombinant adeno-associated virus 2-mediated delivery of mutant (A53T) human alpha-synuclein into the substantia nigra (SN) under a neuron-specific synapsin promoter resulted in protracted neurodegeneration with significant dopaminergic (DA) neuron loss by 17 weeks. As early as 4 weeks, there was an increase in a dopamine metabolite, DOPAC and histologically, DA axons in the striatum were dystrophic with degenerative bulbs. Before neuronal loss, significant changes were identified in levels of proteins relevant to synaptic transmission and axonal transport in the striatum and the SN. For example, striatal levels of rabphilin 3A and syntaxin were reduced. Levels of anterograde transport motor proteins (KIF1A, KIF1B, KIF2A, and KIF3A) were decreased in the striatum, whereas retrograde motor proteins (dynein, dynamitin, and dynactin1) were increased. In contrast to reduced levels in the striatum, KIF1A and KIF2A levels were elevated in the SN. There were dramatic changes in cytoskeletal protein levels, with actin levels increased and alpha-/gamma-tubulin levels reduced. In addition to these alterations, a neuroinflammatory response was observed at 8 weeks in the striatum, but not in the SN, demonstrated by increased levels of Iba-1, activated microglia and increased levels of proinflammatory cytokines, including IL-1beta, IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha. These results demonstrate that changes in proteins relevant to synaptic transmission and axonal transport coupled with neuroinflammation, precede alpha-synuclein-mediated neuronal death. These findings can provide ideas for antecedent biomarkers and presymptomatic interventions in PD.

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