VGF peptides as novel biomarkers in Parkinson’s disease

Cocco C.
Noli B.
Carta M.
Membro del Collaboration Group
Brancia C.
Manca E.
Masala C.
Membro del Collaboration Group
Marrosu F.
Membro del Collaboration Group
Manconi B.;Ferri G. -L.


Parkinson’s disease (PD) is characterized by a progressive degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra (SN). At disease onset, a diagnosis is often difficult. VGF peptides are abundant in the SN and peripheral circulation; hence, we investigate whether their plasma profile may reflect the brain dopamine reduction. Using antibodies against the VGF C-terminal portion, we analyzed the rat brain and human plasma, with immunohistochemistry and ELISA. Rats were unilaterally lesioned with 6-hyroxydopamine and sacrificed either 3 or 6 weeks later with or without levodopa treatment. Plasma samples were obtained from PD patients, either at the time of diagnosis (group 1, drug naïve, n = 23) or upon dopamine replacement (group 2, 1–6 years, n = 24; group 3, > 6 years, n = 16), compared with age-matched control subjects (group 4, n = 21). Assessment of the olfactory function was carried out in group 2 using the “Sniffin’ Sticks” test. VGF immunoreactivity was present in GABAergic neurons and, on the lesioned side, it was reduced at 3 weeks and abolished at 6 weeks after lesion. Conversely, upon levopoda, VGF labeling was restored. In PD patients, VGF levels were reduced at the time of diagnosis (1504 ± 587 vs. 643 ± 348 pmol/mL, means ± S.E.M: control vs. naïve; p < 0.05) but were comparable with the controls after long-term drug treatment (> 6 years). A linear correlation was demonstrated between VGF immunoreactivity and disease duration, levodopa equivalent dose and olfactory dysfunction. Plasma VGF levels may represent a useful biomarker, especially in the early stages of PD.
Biomarker; Dopamine; Parkinson’s disease; Plasma; Substance P; Substantia nigra; VGF peptides
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