Targeted Overexpression of Human α-Synuclein Triggers Microglial Activation and an Adaptive Immune Response in a Mouse Model of Parkinson Disease

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Abstract

Microglial activation and adaptive immunity have been implicated in the neurodegenerative processes in Parkinson disease. It has been proposed that these responses may be triggered by modified forms of α-synuclein (α-SYN), particularly nitrated species, which are released as a consequence of dopaminergic neurodegeneration. To examine the relationship between α-SYN, microglial activation, and adaptive immunity, we used a mouse model of Parkinson disease in which human α-SYN is overexpressed by a recombinant adeno-associated virus vector, serotype 2 (AAV2-SYN); this overexpression leads to slow degeneration of dopaminergic neurons. Microglial activation and components of the adaptive immune response were assessed using immunohistochemistry; quantitative polymerase chain reaction was used to examine cytokine expression. Four weeks after injection, there was a marked increase in CD68-positive microglia and greater infiltration of B and T lymphocytes in the substantia nigra pars compacta of the AAV2-SYN group than in controls. At 12 weeks, CD68 staining declined, but B- and T-cell infiltration persisted. Expression of proinflammatory cytokines was enhanced, whereas markers of alternative activation (i.e. arginase I and interleukins 4 and 13) were not altered. Increased immunoreactivity for mouse immunoglobulin was detected at all time points in the AAV2-SYN animals. These data show that overexpression of α-SYN alone, in the absence of overt neurodegeneration, is sufficient to trigger neuroinflammation with both microglial activation and stimulation of adaptive immunity.

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