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Hum Mol Genet. 2012 Feb 1;21(3):485-94. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddr477. Epub 2011 Oct 18.

α-Synuclein levels modulate Huntington's disease in mice.

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MRC Mammalian Genetics Unit, Harwell, Oxfordshire OX11 0RD, UK.

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  • Hum Mol Genet. 2012 Dec 1;21(23):5237.


α-Synuclein and mutant huntingtin are the major constituents of the intracellular aggregates that characterize the pathology of Parkinson's disease (PD) and Huntington's disease (HD), respectively. α-Synuclein is likely to be a major contributor to PD, since overexpression of this protein resulting from genetic triplication is sufficient to cause human forms of PD. We have previously demonstrated that wild-type α-synuclein overexpression impairs macroautophagy in mammalian cells and in transgenic mice. Overexpression of human wild-type α-synuclein in cells and Drosophila models of HD worsens the disease phenotype. Here, we examined whether α-synuclein overexpression also worsens the HD phenotype in a mammalian system using two widely used N-terminal HD mouse models (R6/1 and N171-82Q). We also tested the effects of α-synuclein deletion in the same N-terminal HD mouse models, as well as assessed the effects of α-synuclein deletion on macroautophagy in mouse brains. We show that overexpression of wild-type α-synuclein in both mouse models of HD enhances the onset of tremors and has some influence on the rate of weight loss. On the other hand, α-synuclein deletion in both HD models increases autophagosome numbers and this is associated with a delayed onset of tremors and weight loss, two of the most prominent endophenotypes of the HD-like disease in mice. We have therefore established a functional link between these two aggregate-prone proteins in mammals and provide further support for the model that wild-type α-synuclein negatively regulates autophagy even at physiological levels.

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