Gaucher disease glucocerebrosidase and α-synuclein form a bidirectional pathogenic loop in synucleinopathies

Cell. 2011 Jul 8;146(1):37-52. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2011.06.001. Epub 2011 Jun 23.


Parkinson's disease (PD), an adult neurodegenerative disorder, has been clinically linked to the lysosomal storage disorder Gaucher disease (GD), but the mechanistic connection is not known. Here, we show that functional loss of GD-linked glucocerebrosidase (GCase) in primary cultures or human iPS neurons compromises lysosomal protein degradation, causes accumulation of α-synuclein (α-syn), and results in neurotoxicity through aggregation-dependent mechanisms. Glucosylceramide (GlcCer), the GCase substrate, directly influenced amyloid formation of purified α-syn by stabilizing soluble oligomeric intermediates. We further demonstrate that α-syn inhibits the lysosomal activity of normal GCase in neurons and idiopathic PD brain, suggesting that GCase depletion contributes to the pathogenesis of sporadic synucleinopathies. These findings suggest that the bidirectional effect of α-syn and GCase forms a positive feedback loop that may lead to a self-propagating disease. Therefore, improved targeting of GCase to lysosomes may represent a specific therapeutic approach for PD and other synucleinopathies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Feedback, Physiological
  • Gaucher Disease / metabolism*
  • Gaucher Disease / pathology
  • Glucosylceramidase / metabolism*
  • Glucosylceramides / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lysosomes / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • alpha-Synuclein / metabolism*


  • Glucosylceramides
  • alpha-Synuclein
  • Glucosylceramidase