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Neural connectivity predicts spreading of alpha-synuclein pathology in fibril-injected mouse models: Involvement of retrograde and anterograde axonal propagation.


In Parkinson's disease, some of the first alpha-synuclein aggregates appear in the olfactory system and the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus nerve before spreading to connected brain regions. We previously demonstrated that injection of alpha-synuclein fibrils unilaterally into the olfactory bulb of wild type mice leads to widespread synucleinopathy in brain regions directly and indirectly connected to the injection site, consistently, over the course of periods longer than 6 months. Our previously reported observations support the idea that alpha-synuclein inclusions propagates between brain region through neuronal networks. In the present study, we further defined the pattern of propagation of alpha-synuclein inclusions and developed a mathematical model based on known mouse brain connectivity. Using this model, we first predicted the pattern of alpha-synuclein inclusions propagation following an injection of fibrils into the olfactory bulb. We then analyzed the fitting of these predictions to our published histological data. Our results demonstrate that the pattern of propagation we observed in vivo is consistent with axonal transport of alpha-synuclein aggregate seeds, followed by transsynaptic transmission. By contrast, simple diffusion of alpha-synuclein fits very poorly our in vivo data. We also found that the spread of alpha-synuclein inclusions appeared to primarily follow neural connections retrogradely until 9 months after injection into the olfactory bulb. Thereafter, the pattern of spreading was consistent with anterograde propagation mathematical models. Finally, we applied our mathematical model to a different, previously published, dataset involving alpha-synuclein fibril injections into the striatum, instead of the olfactory bulb. We found that the mathematical model accurately predicts the reported progressive increase in alpha-synuclein neuropathology also in that paradigm. In conclusion, our findings support that the progressive spread of alpha-synuclein inclusions after injection of protein fibrils follows neural networks in the mouse connectome.

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