Brás IC, Outeiro TF
Cells 2021, 10(2), 375.
The accumulation of misfolded alpha-synuclein (aSyn) throughout the brain, as Lewy pathology, is a phenomenon central to Parkinson’s disease (PD) pathogenesis. The stereotypical distribution and evolution of the pathology during disease is often attributed to the cell-to-cell transmission of aSyn between interconnected brain regions. The spreading of conformationally distinct aSyn protein assemblies, commonly referred as strains, is thought to result in a variety of clinically and pathologically heterogenous diseases known as synucleinopathies. Although tremendous progress has been made in the field, the mechanisms involved in the transfer of these assemblies between interconnected neural networks and their role in driving PD progression are still unclear. Here, we present an update of the relevant discoveries supporting or challenging the prion-like spreading hypothesis. We also discuss the importance of aSyn strains in pathology progression and the various putative molecular mechanisms involved in cell-to-cell protein release. Understanding the pathways underlying aSyn propagation will contribute to determining the etiology of PD and related synucleinopathies but also assist in the development of new therapeutic strategies.