Progression of alpha-synuclein pathology in multiple system atrophy of the cerebellar type

J. Brettschneider, D. J. Irwin, S. Boluda, M. D. Byrne, L. Fang, E. B. Lee, J. L. Robinson, E. Suh, V. M. Van Deerlin, J. B. Toledo, M. Grossman, H. Hurtig, R. Dengler, S. Petri, V. M.Y. Lee, J. Q. Trojanowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Aims: The aim of this study was to identify early foci of α-synuclein (α-syn pathology) accumulation, subsequent progression and neurodegeneration in multiple system atrophy of the cerebellar type (MSA-C). Methods: We analysed 70-μm-thick sections of 10 cases with MSA-C and 24 normal controls. Results: MSA-C cases with the lowest burden of pathology showed α-syn glial cytoplasmic inclusions (GCIs) in the cerebellum as well as in medullary and pontine cerebellar projections. Cerebellar pathology was highly selective and severely involved subcortical white matter, whereas deep white matter and granular layer were only mildly affected and the molecular layer was spared. Loss of Purkinje cells increased with disease duration and was associated with neuronal and axonal abnormalities. Neocortex, basal ganglia and spinal cord became consecutively involved with the increasing burden of α-syn pathology, followed by hippocampus, amygdala, and, finally, the visual cortex. GCIs were associated with myelinated axons, and the severity of GCIs correlated with demyelination. Conclusions: Our findings indicate that cerebellar subcortical white matter and cerebellar brainstem projections are likely the earliest foci of α-syn pathology in MSA-C, followed by involvement of more widespread regions of the central nervous system and neurodegeneration with disease progression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)315-329
Number of pages15
JournalNeuropathology and Applied Neurobiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2017


  • cerebellum
  • multiple system atrophy
  • α-synuclein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)


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