Activation of β-Glucocerebrosidase Reduces Pathological α-Synuclein and Restores Lysosomal Function in Parkinson's Patient Midbrain Neurons.

Therapeutic Approaches


UNLABELLED: Parkinson's disease (PD) is characterized by the accumulation of α-synuclein (α-syn) within Lewy body inclusions in the nervous system. There are currently no disease-modifying therapies capable of reducing α-syn inclusions in PD. Recent data has indicated that loss-of-function mutations in the GBA1 gene that encodes lysosomal β-glucocerebrosidase (GCase) represent an important risk factor for PD, and can lead to α-syn accumulation. Here we use a small-molecule modulator of GCase to determine whether GCase activation within lysosomes can reduce α-syn levels and ameliorate downstream toxicity. Using induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived human midbrain dopamine (DA) neurons from synucleinopathy patients with different PD-linked mutations, we find that a non-inhibitory small molecule modulator of GCase specifically enhanced activity within lysosomal compartments. This resulted in reduction of GCase substrates and clearance of pathological α-syn, regardless of the disease causing mutations. Importantly, the reduction of α-syn was sufficient to reverse downstream cellular pathologies induced by α-syn, including perturbations in hydrolase maturation and lysosomal dysfunction. These results indicate that enhancement of a single lysosomal hydrolase, GCase, can effectively reduce α-syn and provide therapeutic benefit in human midbrain neurons. This suggests that GCase activators may prove beneficial as treatments for PD and related synucleinopathies. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: The presence of Lewy body inclusions comprised of fibrillar α-syn within affected regions of PD brain has been firmly documented, however no treatments exist that are capable of clearing Lewy bodies. Here, we used a mechanistic-based approach to examine the effect of GCase activation on α-syn clearance in human midbrain DA models that naturally accumulate α-syn through genetic mutations. Small molecule-mediated activation of GCase was effective at reducing α-syn inclusions in neurons, as well as associated downstream toxicity, demonstrating a therapeutic effect. Our work provides an example of how human iPSC-derived midbrain models could be used for testing potential treatments for neurodegenerative disorders, and identifies GCase as a critical therapeutic convergence point for a wide range of synucleinopathies.


Mazzulli, Joseph R; Zunke, Friederike; Tsunemi, Taiji; Toker, Nicholas J; Jeon, Sohee; Burbulla, Lena F; Patnaik, Samarjit; Sidransky, Ellen; Marugan, Juan; Sue, Carolyn M; Krainc, Dimitri;

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