Skin α-Synuclein Aggregation Seeding Activity as a Novel Biomarker for Parkinson Disease

Zerui Wang et. al PDBP authors: Shu Chen, Steven Gunzler
Skin α-synuclein


Deposition of the pathological α-synuclein (αSynP) in the brain is the hallmark of synucleinopathies, including Parkinson disease (PD), Lewy body dementia (LBD), and multiple system atrophy (MSA). Whether real-time quaking-induced conversion (RT-QuIC) and protein misfolding cyclic amplification (PMCA) assays can sensitively detect skin biomarkers for PD and non-PD synucleinopathies remains unknown.


To develop sensitive and specific skin biomarkers for antemortem diagnosis of PD and other synucleinopathies.

Design, Setting, and Participants

This retrospective and prospective diagnostic study evaluated autopsy and biopsy skin samples from neuropathologically and clinically diagnosed patients with PD and controls without PD. Autopsy skin samples were obtained at 3 medical centers from August 2016 to September 2019, and biopsy samples were collected from 3 institutions from August 2018 to November 2019. Based on neuropathological and clinical diagnoses, 57 cadavers with synucleinopathies and 73 cadavers with nonsynucleinopathies as well as 20 living patients with PD and 21 living controls without PD were included. Specifically, cadavers and participants had PD, LBD, MSA, Alzheimer disease, progressive supranuclear palsy, or corticobasal degeneration or were nonneurodegenerative controls (NNCs). A total of 8 approached biopsy participants either refused to participate in or were excluded from this study due to uncertain clinical diagnosis. Data were analyzed from September 2019 to April 2020.


A total of 160 autopsied skin specimens from 140 cadavers (85 male cadavers [60.7%]; mean [SD] age at death, 76.8 [10.1] years) and 41 antemortem skin biopsies (27 male participants [66%]; mean [SD] age at time of biopsy, 65.3 [9.2] years) were analyzed. RT-QuIC analysis of αSynP seeding activity in autopsy abdominal skin samples from 47 PD cadavers and 43 NNCs revealed 94% sensitivity (95% CI, 85-99) and 98% specificity (95% CI, 89-100). As groups, RT-QuIC also yielded 93% sensitivity (95% CI, 85-97) and 93% specificity (95% CI, 83-97) among 57 cadavers with synucleinopathies (PD, LBD, and MSA) and 73 cadavers without synucleinopathies (Alzheimer disease, progressive supranuclear palsy, corticobasal degeneration, and NNCs). PMCA showed 82% sensitivity (95% CI, 76-88) and 96% specificity (95% CI, 85-100) with autopsy abdominal skin samples from PD cadavers. From posterior cervical and leg skin biopsy tissues from patients with PD and controls without PD, the sensitivity and specificity were 95% (95% CI, 77-100) and 100% (95% CI, 84-100), respectively, for RT-QuIC and 80% (95% CI, 49-96) and 90% (95% CI, 60-100) for PMCA.


This study provides proof-of-concept that skin αSynP seeding activity may serve as a novel biomarker for antemortem diagnoses of PD and other synucleinopathies.



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