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J Alzheimers Dis. 2019;69(2):463-478. doi: 10.3233/JAD-181191.

Neurodegenerative Disease-Related Proteins within the Epidermal Layer of the Human Skin.

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Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, Life Sciences Complex, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
L'Oréal Research and Innovation, Aulnay-sous-Bois, France.
L'Oréal Research and Innovation, Clark, New Jersey, USA.


There is increasing evidence suggesting that amyloidogenic proteins might form deposits in non-neuronal tissues in neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's diseases. However, the detection of these aggregation-prone proteins within the human skin has been controversial. Using immunohistochemistry (IHC) and mass spectrometry tissue imaging (MALDI-MSI), fresh frozen human skin samples were analyzed for the expression and localization of neurodegenerative disease-related proteins. While α-synuclein was detected throughout the epidermal layer of the auricular samples (IHC and MALDI-MSI), tau and Aβ34 were also localized to the epidermal layer (IHC). In addition to Aβ peptides of varying length (e.g., Aβ40, Aβ42, Aβ34), we also were able to detect inflammatory markers within the same sample sets (e.g., thymosin β-4, psoriasin). While previous literature has described α-synuclein in the nucleus of neurons (e.g., Parkinson's disease), our current detection of α-synuclein in the nucleus of skin cells is novel. Imaging of α-synuclein or tau revealed that their presence was similar between the young and old samples in our present study. Future work may reveal differences relevant for diagnosis between these proteins at the molecular level (e.g., age-dependent post-translational modifications). Our novel detection of Aβ34 in human skin suggests that, just like in the brain, it may represent a stable intermediate of the Aβ40 and Aβ42 degradation pathway.


Aging; amyloid-β; human skin; neurodegenerative proteins; tau; α-synuclein


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