Rab1A Over-Expression Prevents Golgi Apparatus Fragmentation and Partially Corrects Motor Deficits in an Alpha-Synuclein Based Rat Model of Parkinson’s Disease
Although the overabundance of human alpha-synuclein in nigral dopaminergic neurons is considered to play a pathogenic role in Parkinson's disease (PD), it remains unclear how alpha-synuclein leads to neuronal degeneration and motor symptoms. Here, we explored the effect of human alpha-synuclein in the rat substantia nigra following AAV-mediated gene delivery inducing a moderate loss of dopaminergic neurons together with motor impairments. A significant fraction of the surviving nigral neurons were found to express human alpha Syn and displayed a pathological fragmentation of the Golgi apparatus. This observation prompted further investigation on the role of the secretory pathway, in particular at the ER/Golgi level, in alpha-synuclein toxicity. To address this question, we co-expressed human alpha-synuclein with Rab1A, a regulator of ER-to-Golgi vesicular trafficking, and found a significant reduction of Golgi fragmentation. Rab1A did not protect the dopaminergic neurons from the alpha-synuclein-induced degeneration that occurred within several months following vector injection. However, we observed in animals co-expressing Rab1A an improvement of motor behavior that correlates with the rescue of normal Golgi morphology in alpha-synuclein-expressing dopaminergic neurons. The non-prenylable mutant Rab1A-DeltaCC did not produce any of the effects observed with the wild-type form of Rab1A, linking the protective role of Rab1A with its activity in ER-to-Golgi vesicular trafficking. In conclusion, Rab1A can rescue the Golgi fragmentation caused by the overabundance of alpha-synuclein in nigral dopaminergic neurons, improving the ability of the surviving neurons to control motor function in hemiparkinsonian animals.