Anxiety and depression affect 35-50% of patients with Parkinson's disease (PD), often precede the onset of motor symptoms, and have a negative impact on their quality of life. Dysfunction of the serotonergic (5-HT) system, which regulates mood and emotional pathways, occurs during the premotor phase of PD and contributes to a variety of non-motor symptoms. Furthermore, α-synuclein (α-Syn) aggregates were identified in raphe nuclei in the early stages of the disease. However, there are very few animal models of PD-related neuropsychiatric disorders. Here, we develop a new mouse model of α-synucleinopathy in the 5-HT system that mimics prominent histopathological and neuropsychiatric features of human PD. We showed that adeno-associated virus (AAV5)-induced overexpression of wild-type human α-Syn (h-α-Syn) in raphe 5-HT neurons triggers progressive accumulation, phosphorylation, and aggregation of h-α-Syn protein in the 5-HT system. Specifically, AAV5-injected mice displayed axonal impairment in the output brain regions of raphe neurons, and deficits in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression and 5-HT neurotransmission, resulting in a depressive-like phenotype. Intracerebroventricular treatment with an indatraline-conjugated antisense oligonucleotide (IND-ASO) for four weeks induced an effective and safe reduction of h-α-Syn synthesis in 5-HT neurons and its accumulation in the forebrain, alleviating early deficits of 5-HT function and improving the behavioural phenotype. Altogether, our findings show that α-synucleinopathy in 5-HT neurons negatively affects brain circuits that control mood and emotions, resembling the expression of neuropsychiatric symptoms occurring at the onset of PD. Early preservation of 5-HT function by reducing α-Syn synthesis/accumulation may alleviate PD-related depressive symptoms.
© 2022. The Author(s).