Targeting Alpha Synuclein Aggregates in Cutaneous Peripheral Nerve Fibers by Free-Floating Immunofluorescence Assay

This article has been accepted and is currently in production


To date, for most neurodegenerative diseases only a post-mortem histopathological definitive diagnosis is available. For Parkinson's disease (PD), the diagnosis still relies only on clinical signs of motor involvement that appear later on in the disease course, when most of the dopaminergic neurons are already lost. Hence, there is a strong need for a biomarker that can identify patients at the beginning of disease or at the risk of developing it. Over the last few years, skin biopsy has proved to be an excellent research and diagnostic tool for peripheral nerve diseases such as small fiber neuropathy. Interestingly, a small fiber neuropathy and alpha synuclein (αSyn) neural deposits have been shown by skin biopsy in PD patients. Indeed, skin biopsy has the great advantage of being an easily accessible, minimally invasive and painless procedure that allows the analysis of peripheral nervous tissue prone to the pathology. Moreover, the possibility of repeating the skin biopsy in the course of the follow-up of the same patient allows studying the longitudinal correlation with the disease progression. We set up a standardized reliable protocol to investigate the presence of αSyn aggregates in skin nerve fibers of the PD patient. This protocol involves few short fixation steps, a cryotome sectioning and then a free-floating immunofluorescence double-staining with two specific antibodies: anti Protein Gene Product 9.5 (PGP9.5) to mark the cutaneous nerve fibers and anti 5G4 for detecting αSyn aggregates. It is a versatile, sensitive and easy to perform protocol that can also be applied for targeting other proteins of interest in skin nerves. The ability to mark αSyn aggregates is another step forward to the use of skin biopsy as a tool for establishing a pre-mortem histopathological diagnosis of PD.