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Prominent astrocytic alpha-synuclein pathology with unique post-translational modification signatures unveiled across Lewy body disorders
Melek Firat Altay 1, Alan King Lun Liu 2 3, Janice L Holton 4, Laura Parkkinen 5 6, Hilal A Lashuel 7
Alpha-synuclein (aSyn) is a pre-synaptic monomeric protein that can form aggregates in neurons in Parkinson's disease (PD), Parkinson's disease with dementia (PDD) and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), and in oligodendrocytes in multiple system atrophy (MSA). Although aSyn in astrocytes has previously been described in PD, PDD and DLB, the biochemical properties and topographical distribution of astrocytic aSyn have not been studied in detail. Here, we present a systematic investigation of aSyn astrocytic pathology using an expanded antibody toolset covering the entire sequence and key post-translational modifications (PTMs) of aSyn in Lewy body disorders (LBDs) and in MSA. Astrocytic aSyn was detected in the limbic cortical regions of LBDs but were absent in main pathological regions of MSA. The astrocytic aSyn was revealed only with antibodies against the mid N-terminal and non-amyloid component (NAC) regions covering aSyn residues 34-99. The astroglial accumulations were negative to canonical aSyn aggregation markers, including p62, ubiquitin and aSyn pS129, but positive for phosphorylated and nitrated forms of aSyn at Tyrosine 39 (Y39), and not resistant to proteinase K. Our findings suggest that astrocytic aSyn accumulations represent a major part of aSyn pathology in LBDs and possess a distinct sequence and PTM signature that is characterized by both N- and C-terminal truncations and modifications at Y39. This is the first description that aSyn accumulations are made solely from N- and C-terminally cleaved aSyn species and the first report demonstrating that astrocytic aSyn is a mixture of Y39 phosphorylated and nitrated species. These observations underscore the importance of systematic characterization of aSyn accumulations in different cell types to capture the aSyn pathological diversity in the brain. Our findings combined with further studies on the role of astrocytic pathology in the progression of LBDs can pave the way towards identifying novel disease mechanisms and therapeutic targets.