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npj Parkinson's Disease


Geisel School of Medicine


Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by motor and non-motor symptoms and loss of dopaminergic neurons of the substantia nigra. Inflammation and cell death are recognized aspects of PD suggesting that strategies to monitor and modify these processes may improve the management of the disease. Inflammasomes are pro-inflammatory intracellular pattern recognition complexes that couple these processes. The NLRP3 inflammasome responds to sterile triggers to initiate pro-inflammatory processes characterized by maturation of inflammatory cytokines, cytoplasmic membrane pore formation, vesicular shedding, and if unresolved, pyroptotic cell death. Histologic analysis of tissues from PD patients and individuals with nigral cell loss but no diagnosis of PD identified elevated expression of inflammasome-related proteins and activation-related “speck” formation in degenerating mesencephalic tissues compared with controls. Based on previous reports of circulating inflammasome proteins in patients suffering from heritable syndromes caused by hyper-activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome, we evaluated PD patient plasma for evidence of inflammasome activity. Multiple circulating inflammasome proteins were detected almost exclusively in extracellular vesicles indicative of ongoing inflammasome activation and pyroptosis. Analysis of plasma obtained from a multi-center cohort identified elevated plasma-borne NLRP3 associated with PD status. Our findings are consistent with others indicating inflammasome activity in neurodegenerative disorders. Findings suggest mesencephalic inflammasome protein expression as a histopathologic marker of early-stage nigral degeneration and suggest plasma-borne inflammasome-related proteins as a potentially useful class of biomarkers for patient stratification and the detection and monitoring of inflammation in PD.



Original Citation

Anderson, F.L., von Herrmann, K.M., Andrew, A.S. et al. Plasma-borne indicators of inflammasome activity in Parkinson’s disease patients. npj Parkinsons Dis. 7, 2 (2021).