Alpha-synucleinopathy reduces NMNAT3 protein levels and neurite formation that can be rescued by targeting the NAD+ pathway

Richard B. Parsons, Altin Kocinaj, Gustavo Ruiz Pulido, Sarah A. Prendergast, Anna E. Parsons, Paul D. Facey, Frank Hirth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Parkinson's disease is characterized by the deposition of α-synuclein, which leads to synaptic dysfunction, the loss of neuronal connections and ultimately progressive neurodegeneration. Despite extensive research into Parkinson's disease pathogenesis, the mechanisms underlying α-synuclein-mediated synaptopathy have remained elusive. Several lines of evidence suggest that altered nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) metabolism might be causally related to synucleinopathies, including Parkinson's disease. NAD+ metabolism is central to the maintenance of synaptic structure and function. Its synthesis is mediated by nicotinamide mononucleotide adenylyltransferases (NMNATs), but their role in Parkinson's disease is not known. Here we report significantly decreased levels of NMNAT3 protein in the caudate nucleus of patients who have died with Parkinson's disease, which inversely correlated with the amount of monomeric α-synuclein. The detected alterations were specific and significant as the expression levels of NMNAT1, NMNAT2 and sterile alpha and TIR motif containing 1 (SARM1) were not significantly different in Parkinson's disease patients compared to controls. To test the functional significance of these findings, we ectopically expressed wild-type α-synuclein in retinoic acid-differentiated dopaminergic SH-SY5Y cells that resulted in decreased levels of NMNAT3 protein plus a neurite pathology, which could be rescued by FK866, an inhibitor of nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase that acts as a key enzyme in the regulation of NAD+ synthesis. Our results establish, for the first time, NMNAT3 alterations in Parkinson's disease and demonstrate in human cells that this phenotype together with neurite pathology is causally related to α-synucleinopathy. These findings identify alterations in the NAD+ biosynthetic pathway as a pathogenic mechanism underlying α-synuclein-mediated synaptopathy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2918-2933
Number of pages16
JournalHuman Molecular Genetics
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2022


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