Overexpression of α-Synuclein by Oligodendrocytes in Transgenic Mice Does Not Recapitulate the Fibrillar Aggregation Seen in Multiple System Atrophy
Cells. 2020-10-29; 9(11): 2371
The synucleinopathy underlying multiple system atrophy (MSA) is characterized by the presence of abundant amyloid inclusions containing fibrillar α-synuclein (α-syn) aggregates in the brains of the patients and is associated with an extensive neurodegeneration. In contrast to Parkinson’s disease (PD) where the pathological α-syn aggregates are almost exclusively neuronal, the α-syn inclusions in MSA are principally observed in oligodendrocytes (OLs) where they form glial cytoplasmic inclusions (GCIs). This is intriguing because differentiated OLs express low levels of α-syn, yet pathogenic amyloid α-syn seeds require significant amounts of α-syn monomers to feed their fibrillar growth and to eventually cause the buildup of cytopathological inclusions. One of the transgenic mouse models of this disease is based on the targeted overexpression of human α-syn in OLs using the PLP promoter. In these mice, the histopathological images showing a rapid emergence of S129-phosphorylated α-syn inside OLs are considered as equivalent to GCIs. Instead, we report here that they correspond to the accumulation of phosphorylated α-syn monomers/oligomers and not to the appearance of the distinctive fibrillar α-syn aggregates that are present in the brains of MSA or PD patients. In spite of a propensity to co-sediment with myelin sheath contaminants, the phosphorylated forms found in the brains of the transgenic animals are soluble (>80%). In clear contrast, the phosphorylated species present in the brains of MSA and PD patients are insoluble fibrils (>95%). Using primary cultures of OLs from PLP-αSyn mice we observed a variable association of S129-phosphorylated α-syn with the cytoplasmic compartment, the nucleus and with membrane domains suggesting that OLs functionally accommodate the phospho-α-syn deriving from experimental overexpression. Yet and while not taking place spontaneously, fibrillization can be seeded in these primary cultures by challenging the OLs with α-syn preformed fibrils (PFFs). This indicates that a targeted overexpression of α-syn does not model GCIs in mice but that it can provide a basis for seeding aggregation using PFFs. This approach could help establishing a link between α-syn aggregation and the development of a clinical phenotype in these transgenic animals.