Neurobiology of Aging vol:35 issue:11 pages:2625-36
Loss-of-function mutations in the PINK1 gene lead to recessive forms of Parkinson's disease. Animal models with depleted PINK1 expression have failed to reproduce significant nigral dopaminergic neurodegeneration and clear alpha-synuclein pathology, main characteristics of the disease. In this study, we investigated whether alpha-synuclein pathology is altered in the absence of PINK1 in cell culture and in vivo. We observed that downregulation of PINK1 enhanced alpha-synuclein aggregation and apoptosis in a neuronal cell culture model for synucleinopathy. Silencing of PINK1 expression in mouse substantia nigra using recombinant adeno-associated viral vectors did not induce dopaminergic neurodegeneration in a long-term study up to 10 months, nor did it enhance or accelerate dopaminergic neurodegeneration after alpha-synuclein overexpression. However, in PINK1 knockout mice, overexpression of alpha-synuclein in the substantia nigra resulted in enhanced dopaminergic neurodegeneration as well as significantly higher levels of alpha-synuclein phosphorylation at serine 129 at 4 weeks postinjection. In conclusion, our results demonstrate that total loss of PINK1 leads to an increased sensitivity to alpha-synuclein-induced neuropathology and cell death in vivo.