Drp-1 dependent mitochondrial fragmentation and protective autophagy in dopaminergic SH-SY5Y cells overexpressing alpha-synuclein

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Abstract

Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative movement disorder caused by the loss of dopaminergic neurons from substantia nigra. It is characterized by the accumulation of aggregated α-synuclein as the major component of the Lewy bodies. Additional common features of this disease are the mitochondrial dysfunction and the activation/inhibition of autophagy both events associated to the intracellular accumulation of α-synuclein. The mechanism by which these events contribute to neural degeneration remains unknown. In the present work we investigated the effect of α-synuclein on mitochondrial dynamics and autophagy/mitophagy in SH-SY5Y cells, an in vitro model of Parkinson disease. We demonstrated that overexpression of wild type α-synuclein causes moderated toxicity, ROS generation and mitochondrial dysfunction. In addition, α-synuclein induces the mitochondrial fragmentation on a Drp-1-dependent fashion. Overexpression of the fusion protein Opa-1 prevented both mitochondrial fragmentation and cytotoxicity. On the other hand, cells expressing α-synuclein showed activated autophagy and particularly mitophagy. Employing a genetic strategy we demonstrated that autophagy is triggered in order to protect cells from α-synuclein-induced cell death. Our results clarify the role of Opa-1 and Drp-1 in mitochondrial dynamics and cell survival, a controversial α-synuclein research issue. The findings presented point to the relevance of mitochondrial homeostasis and autophagy in the pathogenesis of PD. Better understanding of the molecular interaction between these processes could give rise to novel therapeutic methods for PD prevention and amelioration.

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