Recombinant adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors are a popular genetic approach in neuroscience because they confer such efficient transgene expression in the brain and spinal cord. A number of studies have used AAV to express pathological disease-related proteins in the dopaminergic neurons of the substantia nigra in situ ( e.g., α-synuclein to model aspects of Parkinson's disease). The neuropathology and neurodegeneration of Parkinson's disease occur in a circumscribed pattern in the brain, and one of the most important goals of any gene transfer study is accurate, pinpoint targeting. By combining Cre recombinase-dependent AAVs in Cre-driver rats in which Cre is expressed only in the tyrosine hydroxylase neurons, we have achieved more highly targeted expression of several disease-relevant neuropathological proteins in the substantia nigra pars compacta than using constitutive expression AAV vectors. Alpha-synuclein, tau, transactive response DNA-binding protein of 43 kDa, or the control fluorescent protein yellow fluorescent protein was individually expressed to induce highly targeted, dopaminergic neuron-specific neurodegeneration models. The refined targeting foreshadows a next-generation disease modeling system for expressing neurodegenerative disease-related proteins in a disease-relevant manner. We foresee specific utilities of this in vivo AAV vector targeting of pathological proteins to a well-defined and well-demarcated cell population.-Grames, M. S., Dayton, R. D., Jackson, K. L., Richard, A. D., Lu, X., Klein, R. L. Cre-dependent AAV vectors for highly targeted expression of disease-related proteins and neurodegeneration in the substantia nigra.
Keywords: TDP-43; adeno-associated virus; pathological protein spreading; tau; α-synuclein.