Poul Henning Jensen

Polo-like kinase 2 modulates α-synuclein protein levels by regulating its mRNA production

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Variations in the α-synuclein-encoding SNCA gene represent the greatest genetic risk factor for Parkinson's disease (PD), and duplications/triplications of SNCA cause autosomal dominant familial PD. These facts closely link brain levels of α-synuclein with the risk of PD, and make lowering α-synuclein levels a therapeutic strategy for the treatment of PD and related synucleinopathies. In this paper, we corroborate previous findings on the ability of overexpressed Polo-like kinase 2 (PLK-2) to decrease cellular α-synuclein, but demonstrate that the process is independent of PLK-2 phosphorylating S129 in α-synuclein because a similar reduction is achieved with the non-phosphorable S129A mutant α-synuclein. Using a specific PLK-2 inhibitor (compound 37), we demonstrate that endogenous PLK-2 phosphorylates S129 only in some cells, but increases α-synuclein protein levels in all tested cell cultures and brain slices. PLK-2 is found to regulate the transcription of α-synuclein mRNA from both the endogenous mouse SNCA gene and transgenic vectors that only contain the open reading frame. Moreover, we are the first to show that regulation of α-synuclein by PLK-2 is of physiological importance since 10days' inhibition of endogenous PLK-2 in wt C57BL/6 mice increases endogenous α-synuclein protein levels. Our findings collectively demonstrate that PLK-2 regulates α-synuclein levels by a previously undescribed transcription-based mechanism. This mechanism is active in cells and brain tissue, opening up for alternative strategies for modulating α-synuclein levels and thereby for the possibility of modifying disease progression in synucleinopaties.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNeurobiology of Disease
Pages (from-to)49-62
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2017

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