Priming mesenchymal stem cells with α-synuclein enhances neuroprotective properties through induction of autophagy in Parkinsonian models

Stem Cell Res Ther. 2022 Sep 24;13(1):483. doi: 10.1186/s13287-022-03139-w.


Background: Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) may be one of candidates for disease-modifying therapy in Parkinsonian diseases. As knowledge regarding the therapeutic properties of MSCs accumulates, some obstacles still remain to be overcome, especially, successful clinical translation requires the development of culture systems that mimic the natural MSC niche, while allowing clinical-scale cell expansion without compromising quality and function of the cells. In recent years, priming approaches using bioactive peptide or complement components have been investigated to enhance the therapeutic potential of MSCs.

Methods: We investigated an innovative priming strategy by conditioning the MSCs with α-synuclein (α-syn). To induce priming, MSCs were treated with different concentrations of α-syn and various time course. We evaluated whether α-syn enhances stemness properties of MSCs and priming MSCs with α-syn would modulate autophagy-related gene expression profiles.

Results: Treatment of naïve MSCs with α-syn upregulated transcriptional factors responsible for regulation of stemness, which was associated with the elevated expression of genes involved in glycolysis and cell re-programming. Primed MSCs with α-syn enhanced the expression of autophagy-regulating miRNA, and exosomes derived from primed MSCs were packed with autophagy-associated miRNA. In α-syn-overexpressing neuronal cells, primed MSCs with α-syn enhanced neuronal viability relative to naïve MSCs, through the induction of autophagy and lysosome activity. Animal study using an α-syn-overexpressing mice showed that the pro-survival effect of MSCs on dopaminergic neurons was more prominent in primed MSC-treated mice compared with that in naïve MSC-treated mice.

Conclusions: The present data suggest that MSC priming with α-syn exerts neuroprotective effects through augmented stemness and possibly the enhancement of autophagy-mediated α-syn modulation in Parkinsonian models.

Keywords: AMBRA1; Autophagy; Exosome miRNA; Mesenchymal stem cells; Parkinson’s disease; α-Synuclein.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autophagy / genetics
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / metabolism
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells* / metabolism
  • Mice
  • MicroRNAs* / genetics
  • MicroRNAs* / metabolism
  • Neuroprotective Agents* / pharmacology
  • alpha-Synuclein / genetics
  • alpha-Synuclein / metabolism
  • alpha-Synuclein / pharmacology


  • MicroRNAs
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • alpha-Synuclein