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BACKGROUNDLewy body disease is a heterogeneous group of neurodegenerative disorders characterized by alpha-synuclein accumulation that includes dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) and Parkinson's Disease (PD). Recent evidence suggests that impairment of lysosomal pathways (i.e. autophagy) involved in alpha-synuclein clearance might play an important role. For this reason, we sought to examine the expression levels of members of the autophagy pathway in brains of patients with DLB and Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and in alpha-synuclein transgenic mice.
RESULTSBy immunoblot analysis, compared to controls and AD, in DLB cases levels of mTor were elevated and Atg7 were reduced. Levels of other components of the autophagy pathway such as Atg5, Atg10, Atg12 and Beclin-1 were not different in DLB compared to controls. In DLB brains, mTor was more abundant in neurons displaying alpha-synuclein accumulation. These neurons also showed abnormal expression of lysosomal markers such as LC3, and ultrastructural analysis revealed the presence of abundant and abnormal autophagosomes. Similar alterations were observed in the brains of alpha-synuclein transgenic mice. Intra-cerebral infusion of rapamycin, an inhibitor of mTor, or injection of a lentiviral vector expressing Atg7 resulted in reduced accumulation of alpha-synuclein in transgenic mice and amelioration of associated neurodegenerative alterations.
CONCLUSIONSThis study supports the notion that defects in the autophagy pathway and more specifically in mTor and Atg7 are associated with neurodegeneration in DLB cases and alpha-synuclein transgenic models and supports the possibility that modulators of the autophagy pathway might have potential therapeutic effects.