Inducible over-expression of wild type α-synuclein in human neuronal cells leads to caspase-dependent non-apoptotic death

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Abstract

Alpha-synuclein (ASYN) is central in Parkinson's disease pathogenesis. Converging pieces of evidence suggest that the levels of ASYN expression play a critical role in both familial and sporadic Parkinson's disease. To elucidate the mechanism underlying wild type (WT) ASYN-mediated neurotoxicity, we have generated a novel Tet-Off SHSY-5Y cell line, conditionally expressing WT ASYN. Induction of human WT ASYN in retinoic acid-differentiated SHSY-5Y cells leads to accumulation of soluble ASYN oligomers, in the absence of inclusions, and to gradual cellular degeneration. Morphologically, the death observed is non-apoptotic. Caspases other than caspase 3, including caspase 9, are activated and caspase inhibition diminishes death by acting at a point upstream of cytochrome c release. Application of Scyllo-inositol, an oligomer-stabilizing compound, prevents neuronal death in this model. These findings are consistent with a model in which oligomeric ASYN triggers the initial activation of the apoptotic pathway, which is however blocked downstream of the mitochondrial checkpoint, thus leading to a death combining in a unique fashion both apoptotic and non-apoptotic features. This novel inducible cell model system may prove valuable in the deciphering of WT ASYN-induced pathogenic effects and in the assessment and screening of potential therapeutic strategies.

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