Alpha-synuclein/synapsin III pathological interplay boosts the motor response to methylphenidate

Gaia Faustini, Francesca Longhena, Agostino Bruno, Federica Bono, Jessica Grigoletto, Luca La Via, Alessandro Barbon, Andrea Casiraghi, Valentina Straniero, Ermanno Valoti, Gabriele Costantino, Fabio Benfenati, Cristina Missale, Marina Pizzi, Maria Grazia Spillantini, Arianna Bellucci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Loss of dopaminergic nigrostriatal neurons and fibrillary α-synuclein (α-syn) aggregation in Lewy bodies (LB) characterize Parkinson's disease (PD). We recently found that Synapsin III (Syn III), a phosphoprotein regulating dopamine (DA) release with α-syn, is another key component of LB fibrils in the brain of PD patients and acts as a crucial mediator of α-syn aggregation and toxicity. Methylphenidate (MPH), a monoamine reuptake inhibitor (MRI) efficiently counteracting freezing of gait in advanced PD patients, can bind α-syn and controls α-syn-mediated DA overflow and presynaptic compartmentalization. Interestingly, MPH results also efficient for the treatment of attention deficits and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a neurodevelopmental psychiatric syndrome associated with Syn III and α-syn polymorphisms and constituting a risk factor for the development of LB disorders. Here, we studied α-syn/Syn III co-deposition and longitudinal changes of α-syn, Syn III and DA transporter (DAT) striatal levels in nigrostriatal neurons of a PD model, the human C-terminally truncated (1−120) α-syn transgenic (SYN120 tg) mouse, in comparison with C57BL/6J wild type (wt) and C57BL/6JOlaHsd α-syn null littermates. Then, we analyzed the locomotor response of these animals to an acute administration of MPH (d-threo) and other MRIs: cocaine, that we previously found to stimulate Syn III-reliant DA release in the absence of α-syn, or the selective DAT blocker GBR-12935, along aging. Finally, we assessed whether these drugs modulate α-syn/Syn III interaction by fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) and performed in silico studies engendering a heuristic model of the α-syn conformations stabilized upon MPH binding. We found that only MPH was able to over-stimulate a Syn III-dependent/DAT-independent locomotor activity in the aged SYN120 tg mice showing α-syn/Syn III co-aggregates. MPH enhanced full length (fl) α-syn/Syn III and even more (1–120) α-syn/Syn III interaction in cells exhibiting α-syn/Syn III inclusions. Moreover, in silico studies confirmed that MPH may reduce α-syn fibrillation by stabilizing a protein conformation with increased lipid binding predisposition. Our observations indicate that the motor-stimulating effect of MPH can be positively fostered in the presence of α-syn/Syn III co-aggregation. This evidence holds significant implications for PD and ADHD therapeutic management.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104789
JournalNeurobiology of Disease
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • Cocaine
  • Methylphenidate
  • Motor behaviour
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Synapsin III
  • α-Synuclein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology


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