Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)TiHo eLib

Alpha-synuclein pathology, microgliosis, and parvalbumin neuron loss in the amygdala associated with enhanced fear in the Thy1-aSyn model of Parkinson's disease

In Parkinson's disease (PD), the second most common neurodegenerative disorder, non-motor symptoms often precede the development of debilitating motor symptoms and present a severe impact on the quality of life. Lewy bodies containing misfolded α-synuclein progressively develop in neurons throughout the peripheral and central nervous system, which may be correlated with the early development of non-motor symptoms. Among those, increased fear and anxiety is frequent in PD and thought to result from pathology outside the dopaminergic system, which has been the focus of symptomatic treatment to alleviate motor symptoms. Alpha-synuclein accumulation has been reported in the amygdala of PD patients, a brain region critically involved in fear and anxiety. Here we asked whether α-synuclein overexpression alone is sufficient to induce an enhanced fear phenotype in vivo and which pathological mechanisms are involved. Transgenic mice expressing human wild-type α-synuclein (Thy1-aSyn), a well-established model of PD, were subjected to fear conditioning followed by extinction and then tested for extinction memory retention followed by histopathological analysis. Thy1-aSyn mice showed enhanced tone fear across acquisition and extinction compared to wild-type littermates, as well as a trend to less retention of fear extinction. Immunohistochemical analysis of the basolateral nucleus of the amygdala, a nucleus critically involved in tone fear learning, revealed extensive α-synuclein pathology, with accumulation, phosphorylation, and aggregation of α-synuclein in transgenic mice. This pathology was accompanied by microgliosis and parvalbumin neuron loss in this nucleus, which could explain the enhanced fear phenotype. Importantly, this non-motor phenotype was detected in the pre-clinical phase, prior to dopamine loss in Thy1-aSyn mice, thus replicating observations in patients. Results obtained in this study suggest a possible mechanism by which increased anxiety and maladaptive fear processing may occur in PD, opening a door for therapeutic options and further early biomarker research.

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