Detecting Alpha Synuclein Seeding Activity in Formaldehyde-Fixed MSA Patient Tissue by PMCA

Katelyn Becker, Xinhe Wang, Kayla Vander Stel, Yaping Chu, Jeffrey Kordower, Jiyan Ma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Alpha synuclein (α-syn) is central to the pathogenesis of a group of neurodegenerative disorders known as synucleinopathies, including Parkinson’s disease (PD), dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), and multiple system atrophy (MSA). Aggregation of α-syn is the pathologic hallmark of these disorders and is intimately associated with the pathogenic changes. The prion-like hypothesis postulates that the aggregated α-syn provides a template to seed the aggregation of normal α-syn and spread the pathology. Thus far, it remains unclear whether aggregated α-syn can be a useful biomarker for diagnosis and/or tracking disease progression, which is mainly due to the lack of a suitable biochemical assay. The protein misfolding cyclic amplification (PMCA) technique is known for its enormous amplification power to detect the seeding activity of protein aggregates such as prions. In this study, we adapted PMCA for detecting the seeding activity of α-syn. By extensively optimizing the PMCA parameters, we developed a protocol that is able to sensitively and quantitatively detect the seeding activity of as little as 100 attomoles (10−16 mol) of α-syn aggregate. Using our protocol, we detected α-syn seeding activity from a histologically positive, formaldehyde-fixed MSA sample, but not with the histologically negative, formaldehyde-fixed control sample. Our results confirmed that the α-syn in MSA patient’s brain does contain seeding activity, which remains active even after fixation. Moreover, we also established that PMCA with sonication is a sensitive and quantitative method for detecting α-syn seeding activity, which can be further adapted to more accessible patients’ samples to evaluate α-syn aggregates as a biomarker for synucleinopathies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8728-8737
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Neurobiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Alpha synuclein
  • Amyloid
  • Multiple system atrophy
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Protein misfolding cyclic amplification
  • Synucleinopathies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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