The GBA variant E326K is associated with alpha-synuclein aggregation and lipid droplet accumulation in human cell lines

Hum Mol Genet. 2023 Feb 19;32(5):773-789. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddac233.


Sequence variants or mutations in the GBA gene are numerically the most important risk factor for Parkinson disease (PD). The GBA gene encodes for the lysosomal hydrolase enzyme, glucocerebrosidase (GCase). GBA mutations often reduce GCase activity and lead to the impairment of the autophagy-lysosomal pathway, which is important in the turnover of alpha-synuclein, accumulation of which is a key pathological hallmark of PD. Although the E326K variant is one of the most common GBA variants associated with PD, there is limited understanding of its biochemical effects. We have characterized homozygous and heterozygous E326K variants in human fibroblasts. We found that E326K variants did not cause a significant loss of GCase protein or activity, endoplasmic reticulum (ER) retention or ER stress, in contrast to the L444P GBA mutation. This was confirmed in human dopaminergic SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cell lines overexpressing GCase with either E326K or L444P protein. Despite no loss of the GCase activity, a significant increase in insoluble alpha-synuclein aggregates in E326K and L444P mutants was observed. Notably, SH-SY5Y overexpressing E326K demonstrated a significant increase in the lipid droplet number under basal conditions, which was exacerbated following treatment with the fatty acid oleic acid. Similarly, a significant increase in lipid droplet formation following lipid loading was observed in heterozygous and homozygous E326K fibroblasts. In conclusion, the work presented here demonstrates that the E326K mutation behaves differently to the common loss of function GBA mutations; however, lipid dyshomeostasis and alpha-synuclein pathology are still evident.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Glucosylceramidase / genetics
  • Humans
  • Lipid Droplets / metabolism
  • Lipids
  • Mutation
  • Neuroblastoma*
  • Parkinson Disease* / genetics
  • alpha-Synuclein / genetics


  • alpha-Synuclein
  • Glucosylceramidase
  • Lipids