Early and progressive microstructural brain changes in mice overexpressing human α-Synuclein detected by diffusion kurtosis imaging

Brain Behav Immun. 2017 Mar:61:197-208. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2016.11.027. Epub 2016 Dec 5.


Diffusion kurtosis imaging (DKI) is sensitive in detecting α-Synuclein (α-Syn) accumulation-associated microstructural changes at late stages of the pathology in α-Syn overexpressing TNWT-61 mice. The aim of this study was to perform DKI in young TNWT-61 mice when α-Syn starts to accumulate and to compare the imaging results with an analysis of motor and memory impairment and α-Syn levels. Three-month-old (3mo) and six-month-old (6mo) mice underwent DKI scanning using the Bruker Avance 9.4T magnetic resonance imaging system. Region of interest (ROI) analyses were performed in the gray matter; tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) analyses were performed in the white matter. In the same mice, α-Syn expression was evaluated using quantitative immunofluorescence. Mean kurtosis (MK) was the best differentiator between TNWT-61 mice and wildtype (WT) mice. We found increases in MK in 3mo TNWT-61 mice in the striatum and thalamus but not in the substantia nigra (SN), hippocampus, or sensorimotor cortex, even though the immunoreactivity of human α-Syn was similar or even higher in the latter regions. Increases in MK in the SN were detected in 6mo mice. These findings indicate that α-Syn accumulation-associated changes may start in areas with a high density of dopaminergic nerve terminals. We also found TBSS changes in white matter only at 6mo, suggesting α-Syn accumulation-associated changes start in the gray matter and later progress to the white matter. MK is able to detect microstructural changes induced by α-Syn overexpression in TNWT-61 mice and could be a useful clinical tool for detecting early-stage Parkinson's disease in human patients.

Keywords: Animal model; Diffusion kurtosis imaging; MRI; Parkinson’s disease; Striatum; Substantia nigra; TNWT-61; Thalamus; Transgenic mice.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Motor Skills / physiology
  • Parkinson Disease / diagnostic imaging*
  • Parkinson Disease / genetics
  • Parkinson Disease / metabolism
  • alpha-Synuclein / genetics*
  • alpha-Synuclein / metabolism


  • Snca protein, mouse
  • alpha-Synuclein