α-Synuclein and astrocytes: tracing the pathways from homeostasis to neurodegeneration in Lewy body disease

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Abstract

α-Synuclein is a soluble protein that is present in abundance in the brain, though its normal function in the healthy brain is poorly defined. Intraneuronal inclusions of α-synuclein, commonly referred to as Lewy pathology, are pathological hallmarks of a spectrum of neurodegenerative disorders referred to as α-synucleinopathies. Though α-synuclein is expressed predominantly in neurons, α-synuclein aggregates in astrocytes are a common feature in these neurodegenerative diseases. How and why α-synuclein ends up in the astrocytes and the consequences of this dysfunctional proteostasis in immune cells is a major area of research that can have far-reaching implications for future immunobiotherapies in α-synucleinopathies. Accumulation of aggregated α-synuclein can disrupt astrocyte function in general and, more importantly, can contribute to neurodegeneration in α-synucleinopathies through various pathways. Here, we summarize our current knowledge on how astrocytic α-synucleinopathy affects CNS function in health and disease and propose a model of neuroglial connectome altered by α-synuclein proteostasis that might be amenable to immune-based therapies.

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