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Kathrin Kaehler, Hartwig Seitter, Adolf M. Sandbichler, Bettina Tschugg, Gerald J. Obermair, Nadia Stefanova, Alexandra Koschak; Assessment of the Retina of Plp-α-Syn Mice as a Model for Studying Synuclein-Dependent Diseases. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2020;61(6):12. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.61.6.12.
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Synucleinopathies such as multiple system atrophy (MSA) and Parkinson's disease are associated with a variety of visual symptoms. Functional and morphological retinal aberrations are therefore supposed to be valuable biomarkers for these neurodegenerative diseases. This study examined the retinal morphology and functionality resulting from human α-synuclein (α-Syn) overexpression in the transgenic Plp-α-Syn mouse model.
Immunohistochemistry on retinal sections and whole-mounts was performed on 8- to 11-week-old and 12-month-old Plp-α-Syn mice and C57BL/6N controls. Quantitative RT-PCR experiments were performed to study the expression of endogenous and human α-Syn and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH). We confirmed the presence of human α-Syn in the retina in western blot analyses. Multi-electrode array (MEA) analyses from light-stimulated whole-mounted retinas were used to investigate their functionality.
Biochemical and immunohistochemical analyses showed human α-Syn in the retina of Plp-α-Syn mice. We found distinct staining in different retinal cell layers, most abundantly in rod bipolar cells of the peripheral retina. In the periphery, we also observed a trend toward a decline in the number of retinal ganglion cells. The number of TH+ neurons was unaffected in this human α-Syn overexpression model. MEA recordings showed that Plp-α-Syn retinas were functional but exhibited mild alterations in dim light conditions.
Together, these findings implicate an impairment of retinal neurons in the Plp-α-Syn mouse. The phenotype partly relates to retinal deficits reported in MSA patients. We further propose the suitability of the Plp-α-Syn retina as a biological model to study synuclein-mediated mechanisms.
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