Initiation of Parkinson's disease from gut to brain by δ-secretase

Cell Res. 2020 Jan;30(1):70-87. doi: 10.1038/s41422-019-0241-9. Epub 2019 Oct 24.


Lewy pathology, composed of α-Synuclein (α-Syn) inclusions, a hallmark of Parkinson's disease (PD), progressively spreads from the enteric nervous system (ENS) to the central nervous system (CNS). However, it remains unclear how this process is regulated at a molecular level. Here we show that δ-secretase (asparagine endopeptidase, AEP) cleaves both α-Syn at N103 and Tau at N368, and mediates their fibrillization and retrograde propagation from the gut to the brain, triggering nigra dopaminergic neuronal loss associated with Lewy bodies and motor dysfunction. α-Syn N103 and Tau N368 robustly interact with each other and are highly elevated in PD patients' gut and brain. Chronic oral administration of the neurotoxin rotenone induces AEP activation and α-Syn N103/Tau N368 complex formation in the gut, eliciting constipation and dopaminergic neuronal death in an AEP-dependent manner. Preformed fibrils (PFFs) of α-Syn N103/Tau N368 are more neurotoxic and compact, and aggregate more quickly along the vagus nerve than their FL/FL counterparts or the individual fragments' fibrils. Colonic injection of PFFs induces PD pathologies, motor dysfunctions, and cognitive impairments. Thus, δ-secretase plays a crucial role in initiating PD pathology progression from the ENS to the CNS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / enzymology
  • Brain Stem
  • Cell Line
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Colon
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases / metabolism*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / enzymology
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Neurofibrillary Tangles
  • Parkinson Disease / enzymology*
  • Parkinson Disease / etiology*
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology
  • Phosphorylation
  • Rats
  • Rotenone / toxicity
  • Synucleinopathies / etiology
  • Vagus Nerve
  • alpha-Synuclein / administration & dosage
  • alpha-Synuclein / chemistry
  • alpha-Synuclein / metabolism*
  • tau Proteins / administration & dosage
  • tau Proteins / chemistry
  • tau Proteins / metabolism*


  • SNCA protein, human
  • alpha-Synuclein
  • tau Proteins
  • Rotenone
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases
  • asparaginylendopeptidase