Transfer of host-derived alpha synuclein to grafted dopaminergic neurons in rat

Jeffrey H. Kordower, Hemraj B. Dodiya, Adam M. Kordower, Brian Terpstra, Katrina Paumier, Lalitha Madhavan, Caryl Sortwell, Kathy Steece-Collier, Timothy J. Collier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

142 Scopus citations


Multiple laboratories have recently demonstrated that long-term dopaminergic transplants form Lewy bodies in patients with Parkinson's disease. Debate has arisen as to whether these Lewy bodies form from the transfer of alpha synuclein from the host to the graft or whether they form from intrinsic responses of the graft from being placed into what was, or became, an inflammatory focus. To test whether the former hypothesis was possible, we grafted fetal rat ventral mesencephalon into the dopamine depleted striatum of rats that had previously received 6-hydroxydopamine lesions. One month after the transplant, rats received viral over expression of human alpha synuclein (AAV2/6-alpha synuclein) or green fluorescent protein (AAV2/6-GFP) into the striatum rostral to the grafts. Care was taken to make sure that the AAV injections were sufficiently distal to the graft so no cells would be directly transfected. All rats were sacrificed five weeks after the virus injections. Double label immunohistochemistry combined with confocal microscopy revealed that a small number of grafted tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) neurons (5.7% ± 1.5% (mean ± SEM) of grafted dopamine cells) expressed host derived alpha synuclein but none of the grafted cells expressed host-derived GFP. The alpha synuclein in a few of these cells was misfolded and failed to be digested with proteinase K. These data indicate that it is possible for host derived alpha synuclein to transfer to grafted neurons supporting the concept that this is one possible mechanism by which grafted dopamine neurons form Lewy bodies in Parkinson's disease patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)552-557
Number of pages6
JournalNeurobiology of Disease
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Alpha synuclein
  • Dopamine
  • Prion
  • Transplants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology


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