Infoscience

Thesis

DJ-1 as a neuroprotective protein in models of Parkinson's disease

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a common progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized clinically by the combination of motor symptoms like bradykinesia, tremor, rigidity and postural instability. The pathology of PD is related to the degeneration of dopaminergic neurons of the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNpc) leading to the deficiency of dopamine in the striatal projection areas of these neurons. The pathogenesis of PD is not fully elucidated yet, however there is strong evidence that protein aggregation, mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress play a primary role in the etiology of the disease. Most of PD cases are sporadic, however, several genes have been characterized to cause familial forms of the disease. Among them, mutations in DJ-1 were identified in families with autosomal-recessive early-onset PD and account for 2% of inherited PD cases. The DJ-1 protein was identified as an important player in cellular defense against oxidative stress as it possibly acts as an oxidative stress-induced chaperone and inhibits the formation of inclusions of α-synuclein, another protein related to PD. Alpha-synuclein mutations cause an autosomal dominant form of the disease. Moreover, this protein is a main component of Lewy Bodies, a pathological hallmark of PD. The goal of the experiments during my thesis was to investigate the potential protective effect of DJ-1 in toxin-based [6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) and 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP)] as well as genetic models of PD in vivo. Towards this goal, the DJ-1 protein was over-expressed in rodent SNpc through the injections of recombinant adeno-associated viral vector (rAAV). In the first study, the DJ-1 over-expression led to significant protection of dopaminergic cells and spontaneous motor behavior in 6-OHDA-lesioned animals. However, this effect of DJ-1 was not confirmed when DJ-1 was over-expressed in the brains of mice lesioned with MPTP. In the third part of the study, the nigral over-expression of mutated a-synuclein (A30P mutation found in familial PD cases) was chosen as the genetic model of PD, already developed in our lab. Interestingly, significant preservation of spontaneous behavior was obtained when a-synuclein (A30P) was co-injected with DJ-1. However, this was accompanied by a modest protection of dopaminergic cells, suggesting the implication of other, subtle mechanisms regulating DJ-1-related basal ganglia output. Although the DJ-1 protection of dopaminergic cells was not always achieved, the effect of DJ-1 on the spontaneous behavior implies the interesting capacity of this protein. Our results suggest that DJ-1 is one of key factors playing role in maintenance of dopaminergic function. For a possible clinical application, DJ-1 may have to be linked with another neuroprotecting factor to assure a stronger protection effect.

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