Enhanced Susceptibility of PINK1 Knockout Rats to α-Synuclein Fibrils

Academic Article


  • The main neuropathological hallmarks of Parkinson's disease (PD) are loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra and intraneuronal protein aggregates immunoreactive for α-synuclein phosphorylated at serine 129 (pS129). Most cases of PD are idiopathic; however, genetic mutations have been identified in several genes linked to familial PD. Mutations in the gene encoding α-synuclein are causally linked to dominantly inherited forms of PD and mutations in the PTEN-induced kinase-1 (PINK1) gene are linked to recessively inherited forms of PD. Because abnormal α-synuclein protein aggregates appear spontaneously in PINK1 knockout (KO) rats, we hypothesize that PINK1-deficiency causes endogenous α-synuclein to be more prone to aggregation. α-Synuclein aggregation does not normally occur in mice or rats, however, it can be induced by intracranial injection of α-synuclein pre-formed fibrils (PFFs), which also induces loss of dopaminergic nigral neurons 3–6 months post-injection. Because PINK1-deficiency is linked to early-onset PD, we further hypothesize that PINK1 KO rats will show earlier PFF-induced neurodegeneration compared to wild-type (WT) rats. Herein, we report that intracranial injection of α-synuclein PFFs into the dorsal striatum induced more abundant pS129 α-synuclein in PINK1 KO rat brains compared to WT littermate controls. Moreover, the synuclein extracted from the brains of PFF-injected PINK1 KO rats was more insoluble compared to PFF-injected WT littermates, suggesting greater progression of α-synuclein pathology in PINK1 KO rats. Four weeks post-injection, PFFs caused significant loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra of PINK1 KO rats, but not WT controls. Together, our results indicate that PINK1 deficiency increases vulnerability to α-synuclein aggregation and dopaminergic neurodegeneration in vivo.
  • Published In

  • Neuroscience  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Creed RB; Goldberg MS
  • Start Page

  • 64
  • End Page

  • 75
  • Volume

  • 437