Distribution of phosphorylated alpha-synuclein in non-diseased brain implicates olfactory bulb mitral cells in synucleinopathy pathogenesis

Bryan A. Killinger, Gabriela Mercado, Solji Choi, Tyler Tittle, Yaping Chu, Patrik Brundin, Jeffrey H. Kordower

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Synucleinopathies are neurodegenerative diseases characterized by pathological inclusions called “Lewy pathology” (LP) that consist of aggregated alpha-synuclein predominantly phosphorylated at serine 129 (PSER129). Despite the importance for understanding disease, little is known about the endogenous function of PSER129 or why it accumulates in the diseased brain. Here we conducted several observational studies using a sensitive tyramide signal amplification (TSA) technique to determine PSER129 distribution and function in the non-diseased mammalian brain. In wild-type non-diseased mice, PSER129 was detected in the olfactory bulb (OB) and several brain regions across the neuroaxis (i.e., OB to brainstem). In contrast, PSER129 immunoreactivity was not observed in any brain region of alpha-synuclein knockout mice. We found evidence of PSER129 positive structures in OB mitral cells of non-diseased mice, rats, non-human primates, and healthy humans. Using TSA multiplex fluorescent labeling, we showed that PSER129 positive punctate structures occur within inactive (i.e., c-fos negative) T-box transcription factor 21 (TBX21) positive mitral cells and PSER129 within these cells was spatially associated with PK-resistant alpha-synuclein. Ubiquitin was found in PSER129 mitral cells but was not closely associated with PSER129. Biotinylation by antibody recognition (BAR) identified 125 PSER129-interacting proteins in the OB of healthy mice, which were significantly enriched for presynaptic vesicle trafficking/recycling, SNARE, fatty acid oxidation, oxidative phosphorylation, and RNA binding. TSA multiplex labeling confirmed the physical association of BAR-identified protein Ywhag with PSER129 in the OB and in other regions across the neuroaxis. We conclude that PSER129 accumulates in the mitral cells of the healthy OB as part of alpha-synuclein normal cellular functions. Incidental LP has been reported in the OB, and therefore we speculate that for synucleinopathies, either the disease processes begin locally in OB mitral cells or a systemic disease process is most apparent in the OB because of the natural tendency to accumulate PSER129.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number43
Journalnpj Parkinson's Disease
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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