Indexed on: 06 Feb '13Published on: 06 Feb '13Published in: PloS one
Parkinson's disease (PD) is characterized by the progressive degeneration of substantia nigra pars compacta (SNpc) dopaminergic neurones and the formation of Lewy bodies (LB) in a proportion of the remaining neurones. α-synuclein is the main component of LB, but the pathological mechanisms that lead to neurodegeneration associated with LB formation remain unclear. Three pivotal elements have emerged in the development of PD: α-synuclein, mitochondria and protein degradation systems. We previously reported a unique model, created by conditional genetic depletion of 26S proteasomes in the SNpc of mice, which mechanistically links these three elements with the neuropathology of PD: progressive neurodegeneration and intraneuronal inclusion formation. Using this model, we tested the hypothesis that α-synuclein was essential for the formation of inclusions and neurodegeneration caused by 26S proteasomal depletion. We found that both of these processes were independent of α-synuclein. This provides an important insight into the relationship between the proteasome, α-synuclein, inclusion formation and neurodegeneration. We also show that the autophagy-lysosomal pathway is not activated in 26S proteasome-depleted neurones. This leads us to suggest that the paranuclear accumulation of mitochondria in inclusions in our model may reflect a role for the ubiquitin proteasome system in mitochondrial homeostasis and that neurodegeneration may be mediated through mitochondrial factors linked to inclusion biogenesis.