Overexpression of human alpha-Synuclein leads to dysregulated microbiome/metabolites with ageing in a rat model of Parkinson disease

Mol Neurodegener. 2023 Jul 4;18(1):44. doi: 10.1186/s13024-023-00628-1.


Background: Braak's hypothesis states that sporadic Parkinson's disease (PD) follows a specific progression of pathology from the peripheral to the central nervous system, and this progression can be monitored by detecting the accumulation of alpha-Synuclein (α-Syn) protein. Consequently, there is growing interest in understanding how the gut (commensal) microbiome can regulate α-Syn accumulation, as this could potentially lead to PD.

Methods: We used 16S rRNA and shotgun sequencing to characterise microbial diversity. 1H-NMR was employed to understand the metabolite production and intestinal inflammation estimated using ELISA and RNA-sequencing from feces and the intestinal epithelial layer respectively. The Na+ channel current and gut permeability were measured using an Ussing chamber. Immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence imaging were applied to detect the α-Syn protein. LC-MS/MS was used for characterization of proteins from metabolite treated neuronal cells. Finally, Metascape and Ingenuity Pathway Analysis (IPA) bioinformatics tools were used for identification of dysregulated pathways.

Results: We studied a transgenic (TG) rat model overexpressing the human SNCA gene and found that a progressive gut microbial composition alteration characterized by the reduction of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio could be detected in the young TG rats. Interestingly, this ratio then increased with ageing. The dynamics of Lactobacillus and Alistipes were monitored and reduced Lactobacillus and increased Alistipes abundance was discerned in ageing TG rats. Additionally, the SNCA gene overexpression resulted in gut α-Syn protein expression and increased with advanced age. Further, older TG animals had increased intestinal inflammation, decreased Na+ current and a robust alteration in metabolite production characterized by the increase of succinate levels in feces and serum. Manipulation of the gut bacteria by short-term antibiotic cocktail treatment revealed a complete loss of short-chain fatty acids and a reduction in succinate levels. Although antibiotic cocktail treatment did not change α-Syn expression in the enteric nervous system of the colon, however, reduced α-Syn expression was detected in the olfactory bulbs (forebrain) of the TG rats.

Conclusion: Our data emphasize that the gut microbiome dysbiosis synchronous with ageing leads to a specific alteration of gut metabolites and can be modulated by antibiotics which may affect PD pathology.

Keywords: Antibiotics; Gut microbiome; Intestinal inflammation; PD; α-Synuclein.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Microbiota*
  • Parkinson Disease* / metabolism
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Rats
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry
  • alpha-Synuclein / metabolism


  • alpha-Synuclein
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents