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MerTK is a mediator of alpha-synuclein fibril uptake by human microglia

Dorion, Marie-France; Yaqubi, Moein; Senkevich, Konstantin; Kieran, Nicholas W; MacDonald, Adam; Chen, Carol X-Q; Luo, Wen; ... Healy, Luke M; + view all (2023) MerTK is a mediator of alpha-synuclein fibril uptake by human microglia. Brain , Article awad298,. 10.1093/brain/awad298. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Mer tyrosine kinase (MerTK) is a receptor tyrosine kinase that mediates non-inflammatory, homeostatic phagocytosis of diverse types of cellular debris. Highly expressed on the surface of microglial cells, MerTK is of importance in brain development, homeostasis, plasticity and disease. Yet, involvement of this receptor in the clearance of protein aggregates that accumulate with ageing and in neurodegenerative diseases has yet to be defined. The current study explored the function of MerTK in the microglial uptake of alpha-synuclein fibrils which play a causative role in the pathobiology of synucleinopathies. Using human primary and induced pluripotent stem cell-derived microglia, the MerTK-dependence of alpha-synuclein fibril internalization was investigated in vitro. Relevance of this pathway in synucleinopathies was assessed through burden analysis of MERTK variants and analysis of MerTK expression in patient-derived cells and tissues. Pharmacological inhibition of MerTK and siRNA-mediated MERTK knockdown both caused a decreased rate of alpha-synuclein fibril internalization by human microglia. Consistent with the non-inflammatory nature of MerTK-mediated phagocytosis, alpha-synuclein fibril internalization was not observed to induce secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-6 or TNF, and downmodulated IL-1β secretion from microglia. Burden analysis in two independent patient cohorts revealed a significant association between rare functionally deleterious MERTK variants and Parkinson’s disease in one of the cohorts (P = 0.002). Despite a small upregulation in MERTK mRNA expression in nigral microglia from Parkinson’s disease/Lewy body dementia patients compared to those from non-neurological control donors in a single-nuclei RNA-sequencing dataset (P = 5.08 × 10⁻²¹), no significant upregulation in MerTK protein expression was observed in human cortex and substantia nigra lysates from Lewy body dementia patients compared to controls. Taken together, our findings define a novel role for MerTK in mediating the uptake of alpha-synuclein fibrils by human microglia, with possible involvement in limiting alpha-synuclein spread in synucleinopathies such as Parkinson’s disease. Upregulation of this pathway in synucleinopathies could have therapeutic values in enhancing alpha-synuclein fibril clearance in the brain.

Type: Article
Title: MerTK is a mediator of alpha-synuclein fibril uptake by human microglia
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1093/brain/awad298
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1093/brain/awad298
Language: English
Additional information: © The Author(s) 2023. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Guarantors of Brain. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: microglia, MerTK, alpha-synuclein, phagocytosis, Parkinson’s disease
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > UK Dementia Research Institute
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10185906
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