6 March 2017
α-synuclein, autonomic nervous system, cell-to-cell transfer, central nervous system, dorsal motor nucleus of the vagal nerve, enteric nervous system, Lewy body disease, locus coeruleus, Parkinson’s disease, olfactory bulb, peripheral nervous system, prion-like, protein aggregation, protein misfolding, spinal cord, substantia nigra
A relatively small number of especially susceptible nerve cell types within multiple neurotransmitter systems of the human central, peripheral, and enteric nervous systems (CNS, PNS, ENS) become involved in the degenerative process underlying sporadic Parkinson’s disease (sPD). The six-stage model we proposed for brain pathology related to sPD ( Neurobiol Aging 2003) was a retrospective study of incidental and clinically diagnosed cases performed on unconventionally thick tissue sections (100 μm) from a large number of brain regions.The staging model emphasized what we perceived to be a sequential development of increasing degrees of Lewy pathology in anatomically interconnected regions together with the loss of aminergic projection neurons in, but not limited to, the locus coeruleus and substantia nigra. The same weight was assigned to axonal and somatodendritic Lewy pathology, and the olfactory bulb was included for the first time in a sPD staging system. After years of research, it now appears that the earliest lesions could develop at nonnigral (dopamine agonist nonresponsive) sites, where the surrounding environment is potentially hostile: the olfactory bulb and, possibly, the ENS. The current lack of knowledge regarding the development of Lewy pathology within the peripheral autonomic nervous system, however, means that alternative extra-CNS sites of origin cannot be disregarded as possible candidates. The PD staging system not only caused controversy but contributed a framework for (1) assessing pathology in the spinal cord, ENS, and PNS in relationship to that evolving in the brain, (2) defining prodromal disease and cohorts of at-risk individuals, (3) developing potential prognostic biomarkers for very early disease, (4) testing novel hypotheses and experimental models of α-synuclein propagation and disease progression, and (5) finding causally-oriented therapies that intervene before the substantia nigra becomes involved. The identification of new disease mechanisms at the molecular and cellular levels indicates that physical contacts (transsynaptic) and transneuronal transmission between vulnerable nerve cells are somehow crucial to the pathogenesis of sPD.