Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Region-specific tauopathy and synucleinopathy in brain of the alpha-synuclein overexpressing mouse model of Parkinson's disease

Tiffany Kaul1, Joel Credle1, Thomas Haggerty1, Adam W Oaks1, Eliezer Masliah2 and Anita Sidhu1*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Biochemistry and Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California

2 Department of Pathology, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California

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Citation and License

BMC Neuroscience 2011, 12:79  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-12-79

Published: 3 August 2011



α-synuclein [α-Syn]-mediated activation of GSK-3β leading to increases in hyperphosphorylated Tau has been shown by us to occur in striata of Parkinson's diseased [PD] patients and in animal models of PD. In Alzheimer's disease, tauopathy exists in several brain regions; however, the pattern of distribution of tauopathy in other brain regions of PD or in animal models of PD is not known. The current studies were undertaken to analyze the distribution of tauopathy in different brain regions in a widely used mouse model of PD, the α-Syn overexpressing mouse.


High levels of α-Syn levels were seen in the brain stem, with a much smaller increase in the frontal cortex; neither cerebellum nor hippocampus showed any overexpression of α-Syn. Elevated levels of p-Tau, hyperphosphorylated at Ser202, Ser262 and Ser396/404, were seen in brain stem, with lower levels seen in hippocampus. In both frontal cortex and cerebellum, increases were seen only in p-Ser396/404 Tau, but not in p-Ser202 and p-Ser262. p-GSK-3β levels were not elevated in any of the brain regions, although total GSK-3β was elevated in brain stem. p-p38MAPK levels were unchanged in all brain regions examined, while p-ERK levels were elevated in brain stem, hippocampus and cerebellum, but not the frontal cortex. p-JNK levels were increased in brain stem and cerebellum but not in the frontal cortex or hippocampus. Elevated levels of free tubulin, indicating microtubule destabilization, were seen only in the brain stem.


Our combined data suggest that in this animal model of PD, tauopathy, along with microtubule destabilization, exists primarily in the brain stem and striatum, which are also the two major brain regions known to express high levels of α-Syn and undergo the highest levels of degeneration in human PD. Thus, tauopathy in PD may have a very restricted pattern of distribution.