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Lack of nigral pathology in transgenic mice expressing human alpha-synuclein driven by the tyrosine hydroxylase promoter.

Matsuoka Y, Vila M, Lincoln S, McCormack A, Picciano M, LaFrancois J, Yu X, Dickson D, Langston WJ, McGowan E, Farrer M, Hardy J, Duff K, Przedborski S, Di Monte DA
Neurobiology of disease


alpha-Synuclein has been identified as a major component of Lewy body inclusions, which are one of the pathologic hallmarks of idiopathic Parkinson's disease. Mutations in alpha-synuclein have been found to be responsible for rare familial cases of Parkinsonism. To test whether overexpression of human alpha-synuclein leads to inclusion formation and neuronal loss of dopaminergic cells in the substantia nigra, we made transgenic mice in which the expression of wild-type or mutant (A30P and A53T) human alpha-synuclein protein was driven by the promoter from the tyrosine hydroxylase gene. Even though high levels of human alpha-synuclein accumulated in dopaminergic cell bodies, Lewy-type-positive inclusions did not develop in the nigrostriatal system. In addition, the number of nigral neurons and the levels of striatal dopamine were unchanged relative to non-transgenic littermates, in mice up to one year of age. These findings suggest that overexpression of alpha-synuclein within nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons is not in itself sufficient to cause aggregation into Lewy body-like inclusions, nor does it trigger overt neurodegenerative changes.

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