Increased expression of α‐synuclein can initiate its long‐distance brain transfer, representing a potential mechanism for pathology spreading in age‐related synucleinopathies, such as Parkinson's disease. In this study, the effects of overexpression‐induced α‐synuclein transfer were assessed over a 1‐year period after injection of viral vectors carrying human α‐synuclein DNA into the rat vagus nerve. This treatment causes targeted overexpression within neurons in the dorsal medulla oblongata and subsequent diffusion of the exogenous protein toward more rostral brain regions. Protein advancement and accumulation in pontine, midbrain, and forebrain areas were contingent upon continuous overexpression, because death of transduced medullary neurons resulted in cessation of spreading. Lack of sustained spreading did not prevent the development of long‐lasting pathological changes. Particularly remarkable were findings in the locus coeruleus, a pontine nucleus with direct connections to the dorsal medulla oblongata and greatly affected by overexpression‐induced transfer in this model. Data revealed progressive degeneration of catecholaminergic neurons that proceeded long beyond the time of spreading cessation. Neuronal pathology in the locus coeruleus was accompanied by pronounced microglial activation and, at later times, astrocytosis. Interestingly, microglial activation was also featured in another region reached by α‐synuclein transfer, the central amygdala, even in the absence of frank neurodegeneration. Thus, overexpression‐induced spreading, even if temporary, causes long‐lasting pathological consequences in brain regions distant from the site of overexpression but anatomically connected to it. Neurodegeneration may be a consequence of severe protein burden, whereas even a milder α‐synuclein accumulation in tissues affected by protein transfer could induce sustained microglial activation.
Aging Cell – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
Keywords: ; ; ; ; ;
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