Targeting alpha-synuclein with a microRNA-embedded silencing vector in the rat substantia nigra: Positive and negative effects

Khodr, C. E.; Becerra, A.; Han, Y.; Bohn, M. C.

Brain Res. 2014 Jan 28; 1550:47-60


Background: Alpha-synuclein (SNCA) downregulation shows therapeutic potential for synucleinopathies, including Parkinson's disease (PD). Previously we showed that human (h)SNCA gene silencing using a short hairpin (sh)RNA in rat substantia nigra (SN) protects against a hSNCA-induced forelimb deficit, but not dopamine (DA) neuron loss. Furthermore, the shRNA increases cell death in vitro, but the same target sequence embedded in a microRNA30 transcript (mir30-hSNCA) does not. Objective: Examine hSNCA gene silencing using mir30-hSNCA in vivo. Methods: Rats were stereotaxically injected into one SN with adeno-associated virus serotype 2/8 (AAV)-hSNCA, AAV-hSNCA plus AAV-mir30-SNCA or AAV-hSNCA plus a control non-silencing mir30-embedded siRNA and DA neuron markers and associated behavior were examined. Results: AAV2/8-mediated SN hSNCA expression induces a forelimb deficit and tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactive (TH-IR) neuron loss. hSNCA gene silencing using mir30-hSNCA protects against this forelimb deficit at 2m and ameliorates TH-IR neuron loss. Striatal (ST) TH-IR fiber density and DA markers, assessed by western blot, are unaffected by AAV-hSNCA alone. Co-expression of either silencing vector reduces ST TH-IR fibers, panTH in SN and Ser40 phosphorylated TH in SN and ST, but does not affect vesicular monoamine transporter-2. However, hSNCA gene silencing promotes partial TH-IR fiber recovery by 2m. Co-expression of either silencing vector also induces SN inflammation, although some recovery was observed by 2m in hSNCA-silenced SN. Conclusion: hSNCA gene silencing with AAV-mir30-hSNCA has positive effects on forelimb behavior and SN DA neurons, which are compromised by inflammation and reduced TH expression, suggesting that AAV2/8-mir30-hSNCA-mediated gene silencing, although promising in vitro, is not a candidate for therapeutic translation for PD.

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