Toll-like receptors (TLRs) mediate innate immunity, and their dysregulation may play a role in α-synucleinopathies, such as Parkinson's disease or multiple system atrophy (MSA). The aim of this study was to define the role of TLR4 in α-synuclein-linked neurodegeneration. Ablation of TLR4 in a transgenic mouse model of MSA with oligodendroglial α-synuclein overexpression augmented motor disability and enhanced loss of nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons. These changes were associated with increased brain levels of α-synuclein linked to disturbed TLR4-mediated microglial phagocytosis of α-synuclein. Furthermore, tumor necrosis factor-α levels were increased in the midbrain and associated with a proinflammatory astroglial response. Our data suggest that TLR4 ablation impairs the phagocytic response of microglia to α-synuclein and enhances neurodegeneration in a transgenic MSA mouse model. The study supports TLR4 signaling as innate neuroprotective mechanism acting through clearance of α-synuclein.
Copyright © 2011 American Society for Investigative Pathology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.