The Role of Cholesterol in α‐Synuclein and Lewy Body Pathology in GBA1 Parkinson’s Disease



Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease where dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra are lost, resulting in a decrease in striatal dopamine and, consequently, motor control. Dopaminergic degeneration is associated with the appearance of Lewy bodies, which contain membrane structures and proteins, including α‐synuclein (α‐Syn), in surviving neurons. PD displays a multifactorial pathology and develops from interactions between multiple elements, such as age, environmental conditions, and genetics. Mutations in the GBA1 gene represent one of the major genetic risk factors for PD. This gene encodes an essential lysosomal enzyme called β‐glucocerebrosidase (GCase), which is responsible for degrading the glycolipid glucocerebroside into glucose and ceramide. GCase can generate glucosylated cholesterol via transglucosylation and can also degrade the sterol glucoside. Although the molecular mechanisms that predispose an individual to neurodegeneration remain unknown, the role of cholesterol in PD pathology deserves consideration. Disturbed cellular cholesterol metabolism, as reflected by accumulation of lysosomal cholesterol in GBA1‐associated PD cellular models, could contribute to changes in lipid rafts, which are necessary for synaptic localization and vesicle cycling and modulation of synaptic integrity. α‐Syn has been implicated in the regulation of neuronal cholesterol, and cholesterol facilitates interactions between α‐Syn oligomers. In this review, we integrate the results of previous studies and describe the cholesterol landscape in cellular homeostasis and neuronal function. We discuss its implication in α‐Syn and Lewy body pathophysiological mechanisms underlying PD, focusing on the role of GCase and cholesterol. © 2020 The Authors. Movement Disorders published by Wiley Periodicals LLC. on behalf of International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society.


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