Neurosci Lett 2008 Apr 12;435(1):24-9. Epub 2008 Feb 12.
Department of Neurology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, United States.
Tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), the rate limiting enzyme in catecholamine synthesis, is frequently used as a marker of dopaminergic neuronal loss in animal models of Parkinson's disease (PD). We have been exploring the normal function of the PD-related protein alpha-synuclein (alpha-Syn) with regard to dopamine synthesis. TH is activated by the phosphorylation of key seryl residues in the TH regulatory domain. Using in vitro models, our laboratory discovered that alpha-Syn inhibits TH by acting to reduce TH phosphorylation, which then reduces dopamine synthesis [X.-M. Peng, R. Tehranian, P. Dietrich, L. Stefanis, R.G. Perez, Alpha-synuclein activation of protein phosphatase 2A reduces tyrosine hydroxylase phosphorylation in dopaminergic cells, J. Cell. Sci. 118 (2005) 3523-3530; R.G. Perez, J.C. Waymire, E. Lin, J.J. Liu, F. Guo, M.J. Zigmond, A role for alpha-synuclein in the regulation of dopamine biosynthesis, J. Neurosci. 22 (2002) 3090-3099]. We recently began exploring the impact of alpha-Syn on TH in vivo, by transducing dopaminergic neurons in alpha-Syn knockout mouse (ASKO) olfactory bulb using wild type human alpha-Syn lentivirus. At 3.5-21 days after viral delivery, alpha-Syn expression was transduced primarily in periglomerular dopaminergic neurons. Cells with modest levels of alpha-Syn consistently co-labeled for Total-TH. However, cells bearing aggregated alpha-Syn, as revealed by proteinase K or Thioflavin-S treatment had significantly reduced Total-TH immunoreactivity, but high phosphoserine-TH labeling. On immunoblots, we noted that Total-TH immunoreactivity was equivalent in all conditions, although tissues with alpha-Syn aggregates again had higher phosphoserine-TH levels. This suggests that aggregated alpha-Syn is no longer able to inhibit TH. Although the reason(s) underlying reduced Total-TH immunoreactivity on tissue sections await(s) confirmation, the dopaminergic phenotype was easily verified using phosphorylation-state-specific TH antibodies. These findings have implications not only for normal alpha-Syn function in TH regulation, but also for measuring cell loss that is associated with synucleinopathy.