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Distinct mechanisms of axonal globule formation in mice expressing human wild type α-synuclein or dementia with Lewy bodies-linked P123H ß-synuclein

Akio Sekigawa1, Masayo Fujita1, Kazunari Sekiyama1, Yoshiki Takamatsu1, Taku Hatano2, Edward Rockenstein3, Albert R La Spada45, Eliezer Masliah3 and Makoto Hashimoto1*

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Sensory and Motor Systems, Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Medical Science, Tokyo 156-8506, Japan

2 Department of Neurology, Juntendo University School of Medicine, 2-1-1 Hongo, Tokyo, Bunkyo, 113-8421, Japan

3 Department of Neurosciences, University of California-San Diego, La Jolla, CA, 92093-0624, USA

4 Department of Pediatrics, and Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of California-San Diego, La Jolla, CA, 92093-0624, USA

5 Rady Children’s Hospital, San Diego, CA, 92193, USA

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Molecular Brain 2012, 5:34  doi:10.1186/1756-6606-5-34

Published: 26 September 2012



Axonopathy is critical in the early pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s disease (PD) and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). Axonal swellings such as globules and spheroids are a distinct feature of axonopathy and our recent study showed that transgenic (tg) mice expressing DLB-linked P123H β-synuclein (P123H βS) were characterized by P123H βS-immunoreactive axonal swellings (P123H βS-globules). Therefore, the objectives of this study were to evaluate α-synuclein (αS)-immunoreactive axonal swellings (αS-globules) in the brains of tg mice expressing human wild-type αS and to compare them with the globules in P123H βS tg mice.


In αS tg mice, αS-globules were formed in an age-dependent manner in various brain regions, including the thalamus and basal ganglia. These globules were composed of autophagosome-like membranous structures and were reminiscent of P123H βS-globules in P123H βS tg mice. In the αS-globules, frequent clustering and deformation of mitochondria were observed. These changes were associated with oxidative stress, based on staining of nitrated αS and 4-hydroxy-2-nonenal (4-HNE). In accord with the absence of mitochondria in the P123H βS-globules, staining of nitrated αS and 4-HNE in these globules was weaker than that for αS-globules. Leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2), the PARK8 of familial PD, was detected exclusively in αS-globules, suggesting a specific role of this molecule in these globules.


Lysosomal pathology was similarly observed for both αS- and P123H βS-globules, while oxidative stress was associated with the αS-globules, and to a lesser extent with the P123H βS-globules. Other pathologies, such as mitochondrial alteration and LRRK2 accumulation, were exclusively detected for αS-globules. Collectively, both αS- and P123H βS-globules were formed through similar but distinct pathogenic mechanisms. Our findings suggest that synuclein family members might contribute to diverse axonal pathologies.

α-synuclein; P123H β-synuclein; Parkinson’s disease; Mitochondria; Lysosome; Transgenic mouse