Parkinson disease and progressive supranuclear palsy: protein expression in skin

Ann Clin Transl Neurol. 2016 Feb 1;3(3):191-9. doi: 10.1002/acn3.285. eCollection 2016 Mar.


Objective: This study characterizes the expression of tau (p-tau) and α-synuclein (α-syn) by immunohistochemistry in the skin of three different populations: healthy control (HC), Parkinson disease (PD), and progressive supranuclear paralysis (PSP) subjects, with the purpose of finding a biomarker that could differentiate between subjects with PD and PSP.

Material and methods: We evaluated the presence of p-tau and α-syn in a pilot study in the skin of three distinct groups of patients: 17 healthy subjects, 17 patients with PD, and 10 patients with PSP. Four millimeters punch biopsies were obtained from the occipital area and analyzed by immunohistochemistry using antibodies against α-syn and phosphorylated species of tau. PHF (paired helical filaments) antibody identifies p-tau in both normal and pathological conditions and AT8 recognizes p-tau characteristic of pathological conditions. Differences between the three groups were assessed by quantification of immunopositive areas in the epidermis.

Results: The immunopositivity pattern of p-tau and α-syn was significantly different among the three groups. Healthy subjects showed minimal staining using AT8 and α-syn. The PD group showed significantly higher α-syn and AT8 immunopositivity, while the PSP group only expressed higher AT8 immunopositivity than HCs.

Conclusion: These data suggest that the skin reflects brain pathology. Therefore, immunohistochemical analysis of p-tau and α-syn in the skin can be useful for further characterization of PD and PSP.