Found in Translation: The Utility of C. elegans Alpha-Synuclein Models of Parkinson's Disease
Parkinson's Disease (PD) is the second-most common neurodegenerative disease in the world, yet the fundamental and underlying causes of the disease are largely unknown, and treatments remain sparse and impotent. Several biological systems have been employed to model the disease but the nematode roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) shows unique promise among these to disinter the elusive factors that may prevent, halt, and/or reverse PD phenotypes. Some of the most salient of these C. elegans models of PD are those that position the misfolding-prone protein alpha-synuclein (-syn), a hallmark pathological component of PD, as the primary target for scientific interrogation. By transgenic expression of human -syn in different tissues, including dopamine neurons and muscle cells, the primary cellular phenotypes of PD in humans have been recapitulated in these C. elegans models and have already uncovered multifarious genetic factors and chemical compounds that attenuate dopaminergic neurodegeneration. This review describes the paramount discoveries obtained through the application of different -syn models of PD in C. elegans and highlights their established utility and respective promise to successfully uncover new conserved genetic modifiers, functional mechanisms, therapeutic targets and molecular leads for PD with the potential to translate to humans.