α-Synuclein is a presynaptic protein abundant in the cytoplasmic compartment of neurons, whereas its presence in the extracellular space has also been observed under physiological conditions. Extracellular α-synuclein has pathological significance, exhibiting cellular toxicity and impairment of synaptic transmission. Notably, misfolded α-synuclein drives the cell-to-cell propagation of pathology via the extracellular space. However, the primary mechanism that regulates the extracellular levels of α-synuclein remains to be determined.
Using several mechanistically distinct methods to modulate neuronal/synaptic activities in primary neuronal culture and in vivo microdialysis, we examined the involvement of neuronal/synaptic activities on α-synuclein release.
We demonstrate here that physiological release of endogenous α-synuclein highly depends on intrinsic neuronal activities. Elevating neuronal activity rapidly increased, while blocking activity decreased, α-synuclein release. In vivo microdialysis experiments in freely moving mice revealed that ~ 70% of extracellular α-synuclein arises from neuronal activity-dependent pathway. Selective modulation of glutamatergic neurotransmission altered extracellular α-synuclein levels, implicating this specific neuronal network in the mechanism of activity-dependent release of α-synuclein. While neuronal activity tightly regulated α-synuclein release, elevated synaptic vesicle exocytosis per se was capable to elicit α-synuclein release. We also found that extracellular α-synuclein exists as high molecular weight species.
The present study uncovers a novel regulatory pathway associated with α-synuclein release, whose dysregulation might affect various pathological actions of extracellular α-synuclein including its trans-synaptic propagation.
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