Nerve cells immunoreactive for p62 in select hypothalamic and brainstem nuclei of controls and Parkinson's disease cases.
The protein p62 plays an important role in the proteasomal and/or autophagic clearance of misfolded and aggregation-prone proteins. Immunoreactivity for p62, however, not only characterizes pathological proteinaceous inclusions but also occurs in the form of homogeneous nerve cell labeling in brains of both healthy and diseased individuals, e.g., in the vagal dorsal motor nucleus and other subcortical nuclei. In sporadic Parkinson's disease (PD), the pathological process initially involves preganglionic neurons of the parasympathetic and sympathetic system and probably advances caudo-rostrally from there along the neuroaxis. Since all subsequently affected nuclei (lower raphe nuclei, magnocellular reticular formation, locus coeruleus, and central subnucleus of the amygdala) generate descending projections that terminate in the vagal dorsal motor nucleus and intermediolateral column, it has been conjectured that retrograde axonal transport and transsynaptic transmission of a pathogen contribute to the pathogenesis of PD. The hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus also sends projections to the preganglionic nuclei under consideration and, thus, should belong to the nuclei endangered by the pathological process. However, it remains uninvolved for the duration of the disorder. For this reason, we performed a retrospective study of the relevant nuclei in a cohort of 36 individuals, including 17 with clinically documented PD, one case with incidental Lewy body disease (ILBD), and 18 controls using p62-immunocytochemistry. Remarkably, the neurosecretory cells of the paraventricular nucleus were among the sites showing homogeneous p62-immunolabeling with the greatest consistency. Its p62-immunoreactive profile may indicate that the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus is somehow capable of effectively metabolizing misfolded proteins and/or preventing their aggregation.
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