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Title: The role of alpha-synuclein oligomers in Parkinson's disease pathophysiology and biology
Author: Roberts, Rosalind F.
ISNI:       0000 0004 6061 379X
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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Accumulating evidence links oligomeric species of the protein alpha-synuclein to the neuronal death associated with Parkinson's disease. However, the direct detection of alpha-synuclein oligomers in post-mortem brain has been challenging and this has limited our understanding of their structure, distribution and effects in Parkinson's disease. The work presented in this thesis addresses two aspects of the role of alpha-synuclein oligomers in Parkinson's disease. Firstly, I describe the development of a novel technique, the alpha-synuclein proximity ligation assay (AS-PLA), which specifically detected alpha-synuclein oligomers in vitro and in post-mortem brain tissue. In a blinded study with post-mortem brain tissue from eight Parkinson's disease patients and eight controls, AS-PLA revealed widespread, previously unrecognised pathology in the form of extensive diffuse deposition of alpha-synuclein oligomers. Furthermore, AS-PLA preferentially detected early-stage, loosely compacted Parkinson's disease lesions such as pale bodies, whereas Lewy bodies, considered heavily compacted late lesions were only very exceptionally stained. The oligomeric species detected by AS-PLA displayed a unique, intermediate proteinase K resistance profile, suggesting the detection of a conformer that is different from both physiological pre-synaptic alpha-synuclein (proteinase K sensitive) and highly aggregated alpha-synuclein within Lewy bodies (proteinase K resistant). In addition, AS-PLA revealed the age-dependent accumulation of alpha-synuclein oligomers in the substantia nigra of a BAC transgenic mouse model of Parkinson's disease that overexpresses human wild-type alpha-synuclein, SNCA-OVX. Secondly, the detection of early pathology in Parkinson's disease brain tissue using AS-PLA suggests that oligomeric species of alpha-synuclein could represent a potential target for therapeutic intervention. Therefore, I undertook a screen to identify compounds that can prevent the formation of alpha-synuclein oligomers in vitro. Using bimolecular fluorescence complementation constructs, I identified nine compounds capable of reducing the fluorescence indicative of the formation of alpha-synuclein oligomers. Two of these compounds showed dose-dependent activity. Future work will confirm the hits in vitro before studying whether Parkinson's-like phenotypes in the SNCA-OVX mice can be ameliorated or reversed by treatment with the compounds.
Supervisor: Wade-Martins, Richard ; Abarrategui, Javieralegre Sponsor: Cure Parkinson's Trust ; Parkinson's UK
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Neuroscience ; Alpha-synuclein ; Parkinson's disease ; Oligomers ; Drug screen ; Pathology