The subcellular arrangement of alpha-synuclein proteoforms in the Parkinson’s disease brain as revealed by multicolor STED microscopy

Tim E. Moors, Christina A. Maat, Daniel Niedieker, Daniel Mona, Dennis Petersen, Evelien Timmermans-Huisman, Jeroen Kole, Samir F. El-Mashtoly, Liz Spycher, Wagner Zago, Robin Barbour, Olaf Mundigl, Klaus Kaluza, Sylwia Huber, Melanie N. Hug, Thomas Kremer, Mirko Ritter, Sebastian Dziadek, Jeroen J. G. Geurts, Klaus GerwertMarkus Britschgi*, Wilma D. J. van de Berg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Various post-translationally modified (PTM) proteoforms of alpha-synuclein (aSyn)—including C-terminally truncated (CTT) and Serine 129 phosphorylated (Ser129-p) aSyn—accumulate in Lewy bodies (LBs) in different regions of the Parkinson’s disease (PD) brain. Insight into the distribution of these proteoforms within LBs and subcellular compartments may aid in understanding the orchestration of Lewy pathology in PD. We applied epitope-specific antibodies against CTT and Ser129-p aSyn proteoforms and different aSyn domains in immunohistochemical multiple labelings on post-mortem brain tissue from PD patients and non-neurological, aged controls, which were scanned using high-resolution 3D multicolor confocal and stimulated emission depletion (STED) microscopy. Our multiple labeling setup highlighted a consistent onion skin-type 3D architecture in mature nigral LBs in which an intricate and structured-appearing framework of Ser129-p aSyn and cytoskeletal elements encapsulates a core enriched in CTT aSyn species. By label-free CARS microscopy we found that enrichments of proteins and lipids were mainly localized to the central portion of nigral aSyn-immunopositive (aSyn+) inclusions. Outside LBs, we observed that 122CTT aSyn+ punctae localized at mitochondrial membranes in the cytoplasm of neurons in PD and control brains, suggesting a physiological role for 122CTT aSyn outside of LBs. In contrast, very limited to no Ser129-p aSyn immunoreactivity was observed in brains of non-neurological controls, while the alignment of Ser129-p aSyn in a neuronal cytoplasmic network was characteristic for brains with (incidental) LB disease. Interestingly, Ser129-p aSyn+ network profiles were not only observed in neurons containing LBs but also in neurons without LBs particularly in donors at early disease stage, pointing towards a possible subcellular pathological phenotype preceding LB formation. Together, our high-resolution and 3D multicolor microscopy observations in the post-mortem human brain provide insights into potential mechanisms underlying a regulated LB morphogenesis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423-448
Number of pages26
JournalActa Neuropathologica
Issue number3
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021

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