UMMS Affiliation

Department of Neurobiology; Department of Neurology; Horae Gene Therapy Center; Freeman Lab

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Document Type



Nervous System Diseases | Neurology | Neuroscience and Neurobiology


Parkinson's disease (PD) is the most common form of neurodegenerative movement disorder, associated with profound loss of dopaminergic neurons from the basal ganglia. Though loss of dopaminergic neuron cell bodies from the substantia nigra pars compacta is a well-studied feature, atrophy and loss of their axons within the nigrostriatal tract is also emerging as an early event in disease progression. Genes that drive the Wallerian degeneration, like Sterile alpha and toll/interleukin-1 receptor motif containing (Sarm1), are excellent candidates for driving this axon degeneration, given similarities in the morphology of axon degeneration after axotomy and in PD. In the present study we assessed whether Sarm1 contributes to loss of dopaminergic projections in mouse models of PD. In Sarm1 deficient mice, we observed a significant delay in the degeneration of severed dopaminergic axons distal to a 6-OHDA lesion of the medial forebrain bundle (MFB) in the nigrostriatal tract, and an accompanying rescue of morphological, biochemical and behavioural phenotypes. However, we observed no difference compared to controls when striatal terminals were lesioned with 6-OHDA to induce a dying back form of neurodegeneration. Likewise, when PD phenotypes were induced using AAV-induced alpha-synuclein overexpression, we observed similar modest loss of dopaminergic terminals in Sarm1 knockouts and controls. Our data argues that axon degeneration after MFB lesion is Sarm1-dependent, but that other models for PD do not require Sarm1, or that Sarm1 acts with other redundant genetic pathways. This work adds to a growing body of evidence indicating Sarm1 contributes to some, but not all types of neurodegeneration, and supports the notion that while axon degeneration in many context appears morphologically similar, a diversity of axon degeneration programs exist.


Alpha-synuclein, Axon destruction, Axotomy, Parkinson's disease, Sarm1

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© 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (

DOI of Published Version



Peters OM, Weiss A, Metterville J, Song L, Logan R, Smith GA, Schwarzschild MA, Mueller C, Brown RH, Freeman M. Genetic diversity of axon degenerative mechanisms in models of Parkinson's disease. Neurobiol Dis. 2021 Jul;155:105368. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2021.105368. Epub 2021 Apr 20. PMID: 33892050; PMCID: PMC8292971. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Neurobiology of disease

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.