α-Synuclein induced toxicity in brain stem serotonin neurons mediated by an AAV vector driven by the tryptophan hydroxylase promoter

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Abstract

We studied the impact of α-synuclein overexpression in brainstem serotonin neurons using a novel vector construct where the expression of human wildtype α-synuclein is driven by the tryptophan hydroxylase promoter, allowing expression of α-synuclein at elevated levels, and with high selectivity, in serotonergic neurons. α-Synuclein induced degenerative changes in axons and dendrites, displaying a distorted appearance, suggesting accumulation and aggregation of α-synuclein as a result of impaired axonal transport, accompanied by a 40% loss of terminals, as assessed in the hippocampus. Tissue levels of serotonin and its major metabolite 5-HIAA remained largely unaltered, and the performance of the α-synuclein overexpressing rats in tests of spatial learning (water maze), anxiety related behavior (elevated plus maze) and depressive-like behavior (forced swim test) was not different from control, suggesting that the impact of the developing axonal pathology on serotonin neurotransmission was relatively mild. Overexpression of α-synuclein in the raphe nuclei, combined with overexpression in basal forebrain cholinergic neurons, resulted in more pronounced axonal pathology and significant impairment in the elevated plus maze. We conclude that α-synuclein pathology in serotonergic or cholinergic neurons alone is not sufficient to impair non-motor behaviors, but that it is their simultaneous involvement that determines severity of such symptoms.

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Authors
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External organisations
  • Karolinska Institutet
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Neurosciences

Keywords

  • Journal Article
Original languageEnglish
Article number26285
JournalScientific Reports
Volume6
Publication statusPublished - 2016 May 23
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes