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Title: Detection of alpha-synuclein conformational variants from gastro-intestinal biopsy tissue as a potential biomarker for Parkinson's disease
Author: Ruffmann, Claudio
ISNI:       0000 0004 7430 5165
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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Gastrointestinal (GI) alpha-synuclein (ASN) detection may represent a clinically useful biomarker of Parkinson's disease (PD), but this has been challenged by conflicting results of recent studies employing different immunohistochemical (IHC) methods and reporting diverse morphological patterns with variable biological interpretation. To increase sensitivity and specificity, we applied three different techniques to detect different possible conformations of ASN in GI tissue derived from biopsies of the GI tract, which were obtained from a longitudinally followed, clinically well-characterized cohort of PD subjects and healthy controls (HC) (Oxford Discovery study). With IHC, we used antibodies reactive for total (T-ASN-Abs), phosphorylated (P-ASN-Abs) and oligomeric (O-ASN-Abs) ASN; with the ASN Proximity Ligation Assay (AS-PLA), we targeted oligomeric ASN species specifically; finally, with the Paraffin-Embedded Tissue Blot (PET-Blot) we aimed to detect fibrillary conformations of ASN specifically. Optimisation and validation of the PET-Blot and PLA techniques was carried out with studies on brain tissue from subjects with ASN pathology, and these experiments were used to gain insight into morphology and distribution of different conformational variants of ASN in the brain of subjects with Lewy pathology. We specified all the detected morphological staining patterns with each technique interpreting them as pathologic or non-specific. Correlation to clinical symptoms was assessed to investigate the potential predictive or diagnostic value of specific staining patterns as biomarkers. A total of 163 GI tissue blocks were collected from 51 PD patients (113 blocks) and 21 healthy controls (50 blocks). In 31 PD patients, GI biopsies had been taken before PD diagnosis (Prodromal PD group); while in 20 PD patients biopsies were obtained after PD diagnosis (Manifest PD group). The majority of these tissues blocks were from large intestine (62%), followed by small intestine (21%), stomach (10%) and oesophagus (7%). With IHC, four ASN staining patterns were detected in GI tissue (Neuritic, Ganglionic, Epithelial, and Cellular), while two distinct staining patterns were detected with AS-PLA (cellular and diffuse signal) and with AS-PET-Blot (ASN-localised and peri-crypt signal). The level of agreement between different techniques was generally low, and no single technique or staining pattern was able to reliably distinguish PD patients (Prodromal or Manifest) from HC. Overall, our study suggests that even specific detection of ASN conformational variants currently considered pathologic was not adequate for the prediction of PD. Future studies with these or other novel techniques focusing on the upper part of the GI tract could overcome current limitations in sensitivity and specificity.
Supervisor: Parkkinen, Laura ; Talbot, Kevin Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Neurology ; Neurosciences ; Parkinson's Disease ; proximity ligation assay ; Alpha-synuclein ; biomarker ; neuropathology