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Hum Mol Genet. 2018 Jun 1;27(11):1972-1988. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddy105.

Acid ceramidase inhibition ameliorates α-synuclein accumulation upon loss of GBA1 function.

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The Ken & Ruth Davee Department of Neurology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL 60611, USA.


GBA1 encodes the lysosomal enzyme β-glucocerebrosidase (GCase) which converts glucosylceramide into ceramide and glucose. Mutations in GBA1 lead to Gaucher's disease and are a major risk factor for Parkinson's disease (PD) and Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), synucleinopathies characterized by accumulation of intracellular α-synuclein. In this study, we examined whether decreased ceramide that is observed in GCase-deficient cells contributes to α-synuclein accumulation. We demonstrated that deficiency of GCase leads to a reduction of C18-ceramide species and altered intracellular localization of Rab8a, a small GTPase implicated in secretory autophagy, that contributed to impaired secretion of α-synuclein and accumulation of intracellular α-synuclein. This secretory defect was rescued by exogenous C18-ceramide or chemical inhibition of lysosomal enzyme acid ceramidase that converts lysosomal ceramide into sphingosine. Inhibition of acid ceramidase by carmofur resulted in increased ceramide levels and decreased glucosylsphingosine levels in GCase-deficient cells, and also reduced oxidized α-synuclein and levels of ubiquitinated proteins in GBA1-PD patient-derived dopaminergic neurons. Together, these results suggest that decreased ceramide generation via the catabolic lysosomal salvage pathway in GCase mutant cells contributes to α-synuclein accumulation, potentially due to impaired secretory autophagy. We thus propose that acid ceramidase inhibition which restores ceramide levels may be a potential therapeutic strategy to target synucleinopathies linked to GBA1 mutations including PD and DLB.

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