One of the key problems in Parkinson Disease (PD) genetics is that mouse transgenic models have often not recapitulated what is seen in humans. Although Drosophila and yeast models have been useful, they do not have the unique architecture of the nigrostriatal tract that control the symptoms seen in PD. Our group has pioneered the use of recombinant Adeno-associated virus (AAV) as a gene transfer vehicle to the brain, which we believe is a valuable adjunct to conventional mouse transgenics. Using this method we can bypass many of the problems encountered in mouse transgenic systems, including embryonic lethality and developmental adaptation. In work already published, we showed that expression of human ? synuclein (? syn) in the rat substantia nigra causes reproducible and progressive neurodegeneration of the nitgrolstriatal tract, loss of dopamine, and behavioral abnormalities that are typical to PD. One of the key advantages of this approach is that the same construct used to study a genetic question in rat brains can be used in primates as well. This genetic transfer system is unique in that gene dosage can be manipulated and gene expression is permanent. In this application, we use this technology to focus on an important question in PD: What is the function of ? synuclein? Our preliminary data demonstrate four novel things. First, that modest (2 fold) overexpression of phospholipase D2 (PLD2) in the SNc causes acute and severe neuropathology. Second, that ? syn is an inhibitor of PLD2 pathology. Third, that we see the same type of neurodegeneration when we knock down ? syn with siRNA as we see with overexpression of PLD2. And fourth, that phosphorylation of ? syn at the ser 129 position controls its ability to inhibit PLD2 in vivo just as it does in vitro. Taken together, this demonstrates that at least one important function of 1 syn is to modulate the activity of PLD2. This had been anticipated by several groups based on in vitro and cell culture experiments, but had not been shown previously in an in vivo system. Moreover, our data also shows for the first time that ? syn is an essential protein, at least in the SNc. This runs counter to what had previously been seen with mouse ? syn knockouts and highlights the potential usefulness of this alternative genetic approach to studying Parkinson Disease. However, the most important aspect of this work is that we have potentially identified several new therapeutic targets for treating PD, including PLD2 and the kinase(s) that phosphorylate 1 syn. It is also now possible to tease out the mechanism of the PLD2/?? syn interaction that leads to neurodegeneration and this will hopefully identify additional therapeutic targets. The proposal has three specific aims: 1) To use PLD2 mutants to determine which of the PLD2 functional domains is responsible for PLD2 toxcity, its catalytic domain or its protein interaction domains, 2) To identify the kinase that phosphorylates ? syn in vivo, 3) To test the possibility that PLD2 function affects D2 dopamine receptor activity, which is a key dopamine cell regulator.
We have discovered that expression of PLD2 in the rat substantia nigra also causes a Parkinson like neurodegeneration, and that coexpression of ? synuclein suppresses PLD2 toxicity. This suggests that misregulation of PLD2 may be the initial cause of Parkinson Disease. Our proposal describes experiments designed to identify the downstream mediators of PLD2 toxicity and the kinase that phosphorylates S129 in vivo, and this will hopefully provide new targets for Parkinson Disease gene therapy which we will test in the rat model.
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