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Distribution of α-synuclein in the spinal cord and dorsal root ganglia in an autopsy cohort of elderly persons

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Lewy body-related α-synucleinopathy (LBAS, the abnormal accumulation of pathologic α-synuclein) is found in the central and peripheral nervous systems, including the spinal cord, dorsal root ganglia, and sympathetic ganglia, of Parkinson's disease patients. However, few studies have focused on the distribution of LBAS in the spinal cord, primary sensory neurons, and preganglionic sympathetic nerves. RESULTS: We analyzed 265 consecutive subjects with LBAS who underwent autopsy at a general geriatric hospital. LBAS in the spinal cord was significantly associated with that in the lower brainstem regions that are directly connected to the spinal cord (i.e., the medullary reticular formation and locus ceruleus), but it was not associated with the olfactory bulb-amygdala system, which is not directly connected to the spinal cord, suggesting that the lower brainstem is a key structure regarding the spread of LBAS to the spinal cord. In the primary sensory neurons, most subjects with LBAS in the dorsal root ganglia had LBAS in the dorsal root, and all subjects with LBAS in the dorsal root also had LBAS in the dorsal horn, suggesting that LBAS spreads retrogradely from the axonal terminals of the dorsal horn to the somata of the dorsal root ganglia via the dorsal root. In the preganglionic sympathetic nerves, the LBAS in the sympathetic ganglia preceded that in the nucleus of the intermediolateral column of the thoracic cord, suggesting that LBAS spreads retrogradely through the preganglionic sympathetic nerves. CONCLUSIONS: LBAS in the spinal cord was associated with the lower regions of the brainstem, but not with the olfactory bulb or amygdala. LBAS may spread centrifugally along the primary sensory neurons, whereas it may spread centripetally along the preganglionic sympathetic nerves.

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Sumikura, H., Takao, M., Hatsuta, H., Ito, S., Nakano, Y., Uchino, A., … Murayama, S. (2015). Distribution of α-synuclein in the spinal cord and dorsal root ganglia in an autopsy cohort of elderly persons. Acta Neuropathologica Communications, 3, 57. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40478-015-0236-9

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