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The role of alpha-synuclein in the pathogenesis of multiple system atrophy.

Acta Neuropathologica 2005 Februrary
The discovery of glial cytoplasmic inclusions (GCIs) in 1989 helped to define multiple system atrophy (MSA) as a clinicopathological entity, and drew attention to the prominent role played by these inclusions in the pathogenesis of the disorder. Subsequently, GCIs were shown to be highly positive for alpha-synuclein, a neuronal protein that is normally absent in oligodendroglia except during embryonic development. The source of oligodendroglial alpha-synuclein aggregation in MSA is unknown. Since genetic overexpression has been excluded, active uptake from dying neurons remains a possibility. The similar topography of oligodendroglial and neuronal pathology in MSA suggests a fundamental disturbance of the functional unit between oligodendroglia, axon, and neuron. Transgenic MSA mouse models are now available to determine these aspects of cellular disturbance experimentally.

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