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J Neurosci. 2004 Oct 20;24(42):9434-40.

Early and progressive sensorimotor anomalies in mice overexpressing wild-type human alpha-synuclein.

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Department of Neurology, The Mental Retardation Research Center, The David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California 90095-1769, USA.


Accumulation of alpha-synuclein in brain is a hallmark of synucleinopathies, neurodegenerative diseases that include Parkinson's disease. Mice overexpressing alpha-synuclein under the Thy-1 promoter (ASO) show abnormal accumulation of alpha-synuclein in cortical and subcortical regions of the brain, including the substantia nigra. We examined the motor deficits in ASO mice with a battery of sensorimotor tests that are sensitive to alterations in the nigrostriatal dopaminergic system. Male wild-type and ASO mice were tested every 2 months for 8 months for motor performance and coordination on a challenging beam, inverted grid, and pole, sensorimotor deficits in an adhesive removal test, spontaneous activity in a cylinder, and gait. Fine motor skills were assessed by the ability to grasp cotton from a bin. ASO mice displayed significant impairments in motor performance and coordination and a reduction in spontaneous activity as early as 2 months of age. Motor performance and coordination impairments became progressively worse with age and sensorimotor deficits appeared at 6 months. Fine motor skills were altered at 4 months and worsened at 8 months. These data indicate that overexpression of alpha-synuclein induced an early and progressive behavioral phenotype that can be detected in multiple tests of sensorimotor function. These behavioral deficits provide a useful way to assess novel drug therapy in genetic models of synucleinopathies.

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