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J Neurosci. 2012 Mar 7;32(10):3306-20. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5367-11.2012.

Endoplasmic reticulum stress is important for the manifestations of α-synucleinopathy in vivo.

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Department of Pathology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA.


Accumulation of misfolded α-synuclein (αS) is mechanistically linked to neurodegeneration in Parkinson's disease (PD) and other α-synucleinopathies. However, how αS causes neurodegeneration is unresolved. Because cellular accumulation of misfolded proteins can lead to endoplasmic reticulum stress/unfolded protein response (ERS/UPR), chronic ERS could contribute to neurodegeneration in α-synucleinopathy. Using the A53T mutant human αS transgenic (A53TαS Tg) mouse model of α-synucleinopathy, we show that disease onset in the αS Tg model is coincident with induction of ER chaperones in neurons exhibiting αS pathology. However, the neuronal ER chaperone induction was not accompanied by the activation of phospho-eIF2α, indicating that α-synucleinopathy is associated with abnormal UPR that could promote cell death. Induction of ERS/UPR was associated with increased levels of ER/microsomal (ER/M) associated αS monomers and aggregates. Significantly, human PD cases also exhibit higher relative levels of ER/M αS than the control cases. Moreover, αS interacts with ER chaperones and overexpression of αS sensitizes neuronal cells to ERS-induced toxicity, suggesting that αS may have direct impact on ER function. This view is supported by the presence of ERS-activated caspase-12 and the accumulation of ER-associated polyubiquitin. More important, treatment with Salubrinal, an anti-ERS compound, significantly attenuates disease manifestations in both the A53TαS Tg mouse model and the adeno-associated virus-transduced rat model of A53TαS-dependent dopaminergic neurodegeneration. Our data indicate that the accumulation αS within ER leads to chronic ER stress conditions that contribute to neurodegeneration in α-synucleinopathies. Attenuating chronic ERS could be an effective therapy for PD and other α-synucleinopathies.

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