Dementia in Parkinson's disease (PD) patients is often associated with pathological changes in a-synuclein, Amyloid ? (A?) and tau proteins. In our new preliminary study, the CA1 and CA3 regions of the hippocampus are highly vulnerable to ?-synuclein pathology as well as tau deposits in the brains from PD patients. Clarifying the cellular interaction between ?-synuclein and tau will help better understand the pathogenesis of PD dementia. Interestingly, in our preliminary studies, the expression of PD-related A53T mutant a-synuclein proteins drives tau proteins to dendritic spines, causes loss of AMPA receptors in spines and results in memory loss. To find a postsynaptic link between ?-synuclein and tau, we will test the central hypothesis that A53T a-synuclein impairs post-synaptic structures and/or functions by causing tau mislocalization to dendritic spines, which subsequently leads to calcineurin- and GluR1 S845 dephosphorylation-dependent AMPA receptor internalization. The central hypothesis will be tested by two specific aims:
In Specific Aim 1, we will perform biochemical, live imaging, immunocytochemical and electrophysiological experiments to determine the role of tau mislocalization and/or tau hyperphosphorylation in postsynaptic dysfunction caused by ?-synuclein. We will test the hypothesis that a-synuclein induces synaptic dysfunction by causing loss of AMPA receptor through tau mislocalization and tau hyperphosphorylation.
In Specific Aim 2, we will use pharmacological, molecular biological, genetic, imaging and electrophysiological approaches to determine the roles of calcineurin and tau in ?-synuclein- induced AMPA receptor internalization. We will test the hypothesis that ?-synuclein induces AMPA receptor internalization via tau- and calcineurin-dependent dephosphorylation of Serine 845 at the C-terminus of GluR1 subunits. The completion of the proposed project will unravel a new final postsynaptic cascade that leads to functional deficits after a-synuclein initiation, which may occur at either a pre- or post-synaptic location. The unraveled signaling steps may be targeted in future AD and PD therapeutic strategies.

Public Health Relevance

In a recent preliminary study, the CA1 and CA3 regions of the hippocampus are highly vulnerable to alpha-synuclein and tau pathologies, suggesting that the interplay between alpha-synuclein and tau proteins may play an important role in memory loss that exhibits in Parkinson's disease (PD) patients. In the proposed project, we will investigate a postsynaptic mechanism that links pathological changes in alpha- synuclein to tau-mediated synaptic dysfunction. The unraveled signaling steps that link these two cellular events may provide novel drug targets for future AD and PD strategies.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Cellular and Molecular Biology of Neurodegeneration Study Section (CMND)
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Sutherland, Margaret L
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University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Teravskis, Peter J; Covelo, Ana; Miller, Eric C et al. (2018) A53T Mutant Alpha-Synuclein Induces Tau-Dependent Postsynaptic Impairment Independently of Neurodegenerative Changes. J Neurosci 38:9754-9767