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Acta Neuropathol. 2010 Aug;120(2):131-43. doi: 10.1007/s00401-010-0711-0. Epub 2010 Jun 20.

The synaptic pathology of alpha-synuclein aggregation in dementia with Lewy bodies, Parkinson's disease and Parkinson's disease dementia.

Author information

1
Department of Neuropathology, University Medical Center Göttingen, Robert-Koch-Str. 40, Göttingen, Germany. wjschulz@med.uni-goettingen.de

Abstract

Parkinson's disease (PD) and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) are usually associated with loss of dopaminergic neurons. Loss of substantia nigra neurons and presence of Lewy body inclusions in some of the remaining neurons are the hallmark pathology seen in the final stages of the disease. Attempts to correlate Lewy body pathology to either cell death or severity of clinical symptoms, however, have not been successful. While the pathophysiology of the neurodegenerative process can hardly be explained by Lewy bodies, the clinical symptoms do indicate a degenerative process located at the presynapse resulting in a neurotransmitter deficiency. Recently it was shown that 90% or even more of alpha-synuclein aggregates in DLB cases were located at the presynapses in the form of very small deposits. In parallel, dendritic spines are retracted, whereas the presynapses are relatively preserved, suggesting a neurotransmitter deprivation. The same alpha-synuclein pathology can be demonstrated for PD. These findings give rise to the notion that not cell death but rather alpha-synuclein aggregate-related synaptic dysfunction causes the neurodegeneration. This opens new perspectives for understanding PD and DLB. If presynaptic alpha-synuclein aggregation, not neuronal loss, is the key issue of the neurodegenerative process, then PD and DLB may eventually be treatable in the future. The disease may progress via trans-synaptical spread, suggesting that stem cell transplants are of limited use. Future therapies may focus on the regeneration of synapses.

PMID:
20563819
PMCID:
PMC2892607
DOI:
10.1007/s00401-010-0711-0
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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