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Am J Pathol. 2011 Aug;179(2):954-63. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2011.04.013. Epub 2011 Jun 14.

Toll-like receptor 4 promotes α-synuclein clearance and survival of nigral dopaminergic neurons.

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Division of Clinical Neurobiology, Department of Neurology, Innsbruck Medical University, Innsbruck, Austria.


Toll-like receptors (TLRs) mediate innate immunity, and their dysregulation may play a role in α-synucleinopathies, such as Parkinson's disease or multiple system atrophy (MSA). The aim of this study was to define the role of TLR4 in α-synuclein-linked neurodegeneration. Ablation of TLR4 in a transgenic mouse model of MSA with oligodendroglial α-synuclein overexpression augmented motor disability and enhanced loss of nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons. These changes were associated with increased brain levels of α-synuclein linked to disturbed TLR4-mediated microglial phagocytosis of α-synuclein. Furthermore, tumor necrosis factor-α levels were increased in the midbrain and associated with a proinflammatory astroglial response. Our data suggest that TLR4 ablation impairs the phagocytic response of microglia to α-synuclein and enhances neurodegeneration in a transgenic MSA mouse model. The study supports TLR4 signaling as innate neuroprotective mechanism acting through clearance of α-synuclein.

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