Parkinson's disease, aging and adult neurogenesis: Wnt/β-catenin signalling as the key to unlock the mystery of endogenous brain repair

Bianca Marchetti, Cataldo Tirolo, Francesca L'Episcopo, Salvatore Caniglia, Nunzio Testa, Jayden A. Smith, Stefano Pluchino, Maria F. Serapide

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


A common hallmark of age-dependent neurodegenerative diseases is an impairment of adult neurogenesis. Wingless-type mouse mammary tumor virus integration site (Wnt)/β-catenin (WβC) signalling is a vital pathway for dopaminergic (DAergic) neurogenesis and an essential signalling system during embryonic development and aging, the most critical risk factor for Parkinson's disease (PD). To date, there is no known cause or cure for PD. Here we focus on the potential to reawaken the impaired neurogenic niches to rejuvenate and repair the aged PD brain. Specifically, we highlight WβC-signalling in the plasticity of the subventricular zone (SVZ), the largest germinal region in the mature brain innervated by nigrostriatal DAergic terminals, and the mesencephalic aqueduct-periventricular region (Aq-PVR) Wnt-sensitive niche, which is in proximity to the SNpc and harbors neural stem progenitor cells (NSCs) with DAergic potential. The hallmark of the WβC pathway is the cytosolic accumulation of β-catenin, which enters the nucleus and associates with T cell factor/lymphoid enhancer binding factor (TCF/LEF) transcription factors, leading to the transcription of Wnt target genes. Here, we underscore the dynamic interplay between DAergic innervation and astroglial-derived factors regulating WβC-dependent transcription of key genes orchestrating NSC proliferation, survival, migration and differentiation. Aging, inflammation and oxidative stress synergize with neurotoxin exposure in “turning off” the WβC neurogenic switch via down-regulation of the nuclear factor erythroid-2-related factor 2/Wnt-regulated signalosome, a key player in the maintenance of antioxidant self-defense mechanisms and NSC homeostasis. Harnessing WβC-signalling in the aged PD brain can thus restore neurogenesis, rejuvenate the microenvironment, and promote neurorescue and regeneration.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13101
JournalAging Cell
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020


  • adult neurogenesis
  • aging
  • neuroinflammation
  • Parkinson's disease
  • plasticity/self-repair
  • Wnt/β-catenin signalling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ageing
  • Cell Biology


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