Astrocyte-specific DJ-1 overexpression protects against rotenone-induced neurotoxicity in a rat model of Parkinson's disease

Briana R. De Miranda, Emily M. Rocha, Qing Bai, Amina El Ayadi, David Hinkle, Edward A. Burton, J. Timothy Greenamyre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


DJ-1 is a redox-sensitive protein with several putative functions important in mitochondrial physiology, protein transcription, proteasome regulation, and chaperone activity. High levels of DJ-1 immunoreactivity are reported in astrocytes surrounding pathology associated with idiopathic Parkinson's disease, possibly reflecting the glial response to oxidative damage. Previous studies showed that astrocytic over-expression of DJ-1 in vitro prevented oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction in primary neurons. Based on these observations, we developed a pseudotyped lentiviral gene transfer vector with specific tropism for CNS astrocytes in vivo to overexpress human DJ-1 protein in astroglial cells. Following vector delivery to the substantia nigra and striatum of adult Lewis rats, the DJ-1 transgene was expressed robustly and specifically within astrocytes. There was no observable transgene expression in neurons or other glial cell types. Three weeks after vector infusion, animals were exposed to rotenone to induce Parkinson's disease-like pathology, including loss of dopaminergic neurons, accumulation of endogenous α-synuclein, and neuroinflammation. Animals over-expressing hDJ-1 in astrocytes were protected from rotenone-induced neurodegeneration, and displayed a marked reduction in neuronal oxidative stress and microglial activation. In addition, α-synuclein accumulation and phosphorylation were decreased within substantia nigra dopaminergic neurons in DJ-1–transduced animals, and expression of LAMP-2A, a marker of chaperone mediated autophagy, was increased. Together, these data indicate that astrocyte-specific overexpression of hDJ-1 protects neighboring neurons against multiple pathologic features of Parkinson's disease and provides the first direct evidence in vivo of a cell non-autonomous neuroprotective function of astroglial DJ-1.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-114
Number of pages14
JournalNeurobiology of Disease
StatePublished - Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Astrocyte
  • Chaperone-mediated autophagy
  • DJ-1
  • Gene therapy
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Oxidative stress
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Rotenone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology


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