Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative, progressive disease without cure. To prevent PD onset or at least limit neurodegeneration, a better understanding of the underlying cellular and molecular disease mechanisms is crucial. Mutations in the leucine rich repeat kinase 2 ( LRRK2 ) gene represent one of the most common causes of familial PD. In addition, LRRK2 variants are risk factors for sporadic PD, making LRRK2 an attractive therapeutic target. M utations in LRRK2 has been linked to impaired alpha-synuclein (α-syn) degradation in neurons. However, in which way pathogenic LRRK2 affects α-syn clearance by astrocytes, the major glial cell type of the brain, remains unclear. The impact of astrocytes on PD progression has recently received much attention and recent data indicate that astrocytes play a key role in α-syn mediated pathology.
In the present study, we aimed to compare the capacity of wild-type astrocytes and astrocytes carrying the PD-linked G2019S mutation in Lrrk2 to ingest and degrade fibrillary α-syn. For this purpose, we used two different astrocyte culture systems that were exposed to sonicated α-syn for 24 hours and analyzed directly after the α-syn pulse or 6 days later. To elucidate the impact of LRRK2 on α-syn clearance, we performed various analyses, including complementary imaging, transmission electron microscopy and proteomic approaches.
Our results show that astrocytes carrying the G2019S mutation in Lrrk2 exhibit a decreased capacity to internalize and degrade fibrillar α-syn via the endo-lysosomal pathway. In addition, we demonstrate that the reduction of α-syn internalization in the Lrrk2 G2019S astrocytes is linked to Annexin A2 (AnxA2) loss-of-function.
Together, our findings reveal that astrocytic LRRK2 contributes to the clearance of extracellular α-syn aggregates through an AnxA2-dependent mechanism.