Glucocerebrosidase reduces the spread of protein aggregation in a Drosophila melanogaster model of neurodegeneration by regulating proteins trafficked by extracellular vesicles
Abnormal protein aggregation within neurons is a key pathologic feature of Parkinson's disease (PD). The spread of protein aggregates in the brain is associated with clinical disease progression, but how this occurs remains unclear. Mutations in the gene glucosidase, beta acid 1 (GBA), which encodes the lysosomal enzyme glucocerebrosidase (GCase), are the most penetrant common genetic risk factor for PD and dementia with Lewy bodies, and also associate with faster disease progression. To
... the mechanism by which mutations in GBA influence pathogenesis of these diseases, we previously created a Drosophila model of GBA deficiency (Gba1b) that manifests neurodegeneration, motor and cognitive deficits, and accelerated protein aggregation. Proteomic analysis of Gba1b mutants revealed dysregulation of proteins involved in extracellular vesicle (EV) biology, and we found altered protein composition of EVs from Gba1b mutants. To further investigate this novel mechanism, we hypothesized that GBA may influence the spread of pathogenic protein aggregates throughout the brain via EVs. We found that protein aggregation is reduced cell-autonomously and non-cell-autonomously by expressing wildtype GCase in specific tissues. In particular, accumulation of insoluble ubiquitinated proteins and Ref(2)P in the brains of Gba1b flies are reduced by ectopic expression of GCase in muscle tissue. Neuronal expression of GCase also cell-autonomously rescued protein aggregation in brain as well as non-cell-autonomously rescued protein aggregation in muscle. Muscle-specific GBA expression rescued the elevated levels of EV-intrinsic proteins and Ref(2)P found in EVs from Gba1b flies. Genetically perturbing EV biogenesis in specific tissues in the absence of GCase revealed differential cell-autonomous effects on protein aggregation but could not replicate the non-cell-autonomous rescue observed with tissue-specific GBA expression. Additionally, we identified ectopically expressed GCase within isolated EVs. Together, our findings suggest that GCase deficiency mediates accelerated spread of protein aggregates between cells and tissues via dysregulated EVs, and EV-mediated trafficking of GCase may partially account for the reduction in aggregate spread.