Acta Neuropathologica

, Volume 128, Issue 6, pp 805–820 | Cite as

Direct evidence of Parkinson pathology spread from the gastrointestinal tract to the brain in rats

  • Staffan Holmqvist
  • Oldriska Chutna
  • Luc Bousset
  • Patrick Aldrin-Kirk
  • Wen Li
  • Tomas Björklund
  • Zhan-You Wang
  • Laurent Roybon
  • Ronald Melki
  • Jia-Yi LiEmail author
Original Paper


The cellular hallmarks of Parkinson’s disease (PD) are the loss of nigral dopaminergic neurons and the formation of α-synuclein-enriched Lewy bodies and Lewy neurites in the remaining neurons. Based on the topographic distribution of Lewy bodies established after autopsy of brains from PD patients, Braak and coworkers hypothesized that Lewy pathology primes in the enteric nervous system and spreads to the brain, suggesting an active retrograde transport of α-synuclein (the key protein component in Lewy bodies), via the vagal nerve. This hypothesis, however, has not been tested experimentally thus far. Here, we use a human PD brain lysate containing different forms of α-synuclein (monomeric, oligomeric and fibrillar), and recombinant α-synuclein in an in vivo animal model to test this hypothesis. We demonstrate that α-synuclein present in the human PD brain lysate and distinct recombinant α-synuclein forms are transported via the vagal nerve and reach the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus in the brainstem in a time-dependent manner after injection into the intestinal wall. Using live cell imaging in a differentiated neuroblastoma cell line, we determine that both slow and fast components of axonal transport are involved in the transport of aggregated α-synuclein. In conclusion, we here provide the first experimental evidence that different α-synuclein forms can propagate from the gut to the brain, and that microtubule-associated transport is involved in the translocation of aggregated α-synuclein in neurons.


Parkinson’s disease Alpha-synuclein Lewy body Protein aggregation Protein propagation 



The authors wish to thank Marianne Juhlin and AnnaKarin Oldén for their excellent technical support. We thank Andrew C. McCourt for the linguistic revision of this manuscript. This work was funded by grants from the Swedish Research Council; Torsten Söderberg Foundation and Swedish Parkinson Foundation (J.-Y. L.). S.H., O.C., T.A., L.R. and J.-Y. L are active and supported by BAGADILICO—Excellence in Parkinson and Huntington Research, and the Strategic Research Area Multipark (Multidisciplinary research in Parkinson’s disease at Lund University); L.B. and R.M. are supported by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Grants from the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR-11-BSV8-021-01) and a ‘Coup d’Elan a la Recherche Francaise’ award from Fondation Bettencourt Schueller. Z.Y.W. and J.-Y.L. are supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (81430025) and the Fundamental Research Funds for Central Universities of China (N130120002).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (WPL 0 kb)
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Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 31 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Staffan Holmqvist
    • 1
    • 2
  • Oldriska Chutna
    • 1
  • Luc Bousset
    • 3
  • Patrick Aldrin-Kirk
    • 4
  • Wen Li
    • 1
  • Tomas Björklund
    • 4
  • Zhan-You Wang
    • 5
  • Laurent Roybon
    • 2
  • Ronald Melki
    • 3
  • Jia-Yi Li
    • 1
    • 5
    Email author
  1. 1.Neural Plasticity and Repair Unit, Department of Experimental Medical Science, Wallenberg Neuroscience CenterLund UniversityLundSweden
  2. 2.Cell Stem Cell Laboratory for CNS Disease Modeling, Department of Experimental Medical Science, MultiPark Strategic Research Area and Lund Stem Cell CenterLund UniversityLundSweden
  3. 3.Laboratoire d’Enzymologie et de Biochimie Structurale, CNRSGif-Sur-YvetteFrance
  4. 4.Molecular Neuromodulation Unit, Department of Experimental Medical Science, MultiPark Strategic Research Area, Wallenberg Neuroscience CenterLund UniversityLundSweden
  5. 5.College of Life and Health Sciences, Institute of NeuroscienceNortheastern UniversityShenyangChina

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