Lewy pathology affects the gastrointestinal tract in Parkinson's disease (PD) and data from recent genetic studies suggest a link between PD and gut inflammation. We therefore undertook the present survey to investigate whether gastrointestinal inflammation occurs in PD patients. Nineteen PD patients and 14 age-matched healthy controls were included. For each PD patients, neurological and gastrointestinal symptoms were assessed using the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale part III and the Rome III questionnaire, respectively and cumulative lifetime dose of L-dopa was calculated. Four biopsies were taken from the ascending colon during the course of a total colonoscopy in controls and PD patients. The mRNA expression levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines (tumor necrosis factor alpha, interferon gamma, interleukin-6 and interleukin-1 beta) and glial marker (Glial fibrillary acidic protein, Sox-10 and S100-beta) were analyzed using real-time PCR in two-pooled biopsies. Immunohistochemical analysis was performed on the two remaining biopsies using antibodies against phosphorylated alpha-synuclein to detect Lewy pathology. The mRNA expression levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines as well as of two glial markers (Glial fibrillary acidic protein and Sox-10) were significantly elevated in the ascending colon of PD patients with respect to controls. The levels of tumor necrosis factor alpha, interferon gamma, interleukin-6, interleukin-1 beta and Sox-10 were negatively correlated with disease duration. By contrast, no correlations were found between the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines or glial markers and disease severity, gastrointestinal symptoms or cumulative lifetime dose of L-dopa. There was no significant difference in the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines or glial marker between patients with and without enteric Lewy pathology. Our findings provide evidence that enteric inflammation occurs in PD and further reinforce the role of peripheral inflammation in the initiation and/or the progression of the disease.
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