Alpha-synuclein expression patterns in the colonic submucosal plexus of the aging Fischer 344 rat: implications for biopsies in aging and neurodegenerative disorders?

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Abstract

Background

This experiment assessed normative expression patterns of alpha-synuclein (SYNC), including ganglionic remodeling and development of SYNC pathologies, in the submucosal plexus (SMP) of the colon during healthy aging. The observations address age-associated changes in bowel function and are relevant to evaluations of SMP-containing colonic biopsies for SYNC or synucleinopathies associated with aging and peripheral neurodegenerative diseases.

Methods

Colonic submucosal whole mounts from groups of virgin male Fischer 344 rats (n ≥ 8 per group) at 4, 8, 16, and 24 months of age were processed immunohistochemically for SYNC and the pan-neuronal marker HuC/D. In addition, macrophages immunoreactive for MHCII were examined. Stereological protocols were used to generate unbiased estimates of neuron density, neurons per ganglion, neurons per ganglionic area, and neuron size.

Key Results

The protein SYNC was expressed in a subpopulation of SMP neurons, in both nucleus and cytoplasm. The general age-associated pattern across different cell counts was an increase in the number of SYNC+ neurons between 4 and 8 months of age, with progressively decreasing numbers of both SYNC+ and SYNC- neurons over the remaining lifespan. The soma size of SYNC+ neurons increased progressively with age. Aggregated SYNC occurred in the aging SMP, and macrophages with alternatively activated profiles were located adjacent to pathological SYNC deposits, consistent with ongoing phagocytosis.

Conclusions & Inferences

Changes in SYNC expression with age, including a baseline of accumulating synucleinopathies in the healthy aging SMP, need to be considered when interpreting either functional disturbances or biopsies of the aging colon.

Conclusions & Inferences

This experiment assessed normative expression patterns of alpha-synuclein (SYNC), including ganglionic remodeling and development of SYNC pathologies, in the submucosal plexus (SMP) of the colon during healthy aging. The general age-associated pattern across different cell counts was an increase in the number of SYNC+ neurons between 4 and 8 months of age, with progressively decreasing numbers of both SYNC+ and SYNC− neurons over the remaining lifespan. Changes in SYNC expression occur with age.

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