Parkinson's disease (PD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease caused by the interaction of genetic and environmental factors. However, the etiology ofPDremains largely unknown. Macroautophagy is known to play an essential role in the degradation of abnormal proteins and organelles. Furthermore, the loss of autophagy-related (Atg) genes results in neurodegeneration and abnormal protein accumulation. Since these are also pathologic features of Parkinson's disease, the conditional impairment of autophagy may lead to improved animal models for the study of PD. Using transgenic mice expressing Crere combinase under the control of either the dopamine transporter or the engrailed-1 promoters, we generated mice with the conditional deletion of Atg7 in the dopamine neurons of the substantianigra pars compacta, other regions of the midbrain, and also the hindbrain. This conditional impairment of autophagy results in the age-related loss of dopaminergic neurons and corresponding loss of striatal dopamine, the accumulation of low-molecular-weight _-synuclein, and the presence of ubiquitinated protein aggregates, recapitulating many of the pathologic features of PD. These conditional knock-out animals provide insight into the process of auto phagy in Parkinson's disease pathology.
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