Significant evidence suggests that misfolded alpha-synuclein (aSyn), a major component of Lewy bodies, propagates in a prion-like manner contributing to disease progression in Parkinson's disease (PD) and other synucleinopathies. In fact, timed inoculation of M83 hemizygous mice with recombinant human aSyn preformed fibrils (PFF) has shown symptomatic deficits after substantial spreading of pathogenic alpha-synuclein, as detected by markers for the phosphorylation of S129 of aSyn. However, whether accumulated toxicity impact human-relevant cognitive and structural neuroanatomical measures is not fully understood. Here we performed a single unilateral striatal PFF injection in M83 hemizygous mice, and using two assays with translational potential, ex vivo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and touchscreen testing, we examined the combined neuroanatomical and behavioral impact of aSyn propagation. In PFF-injected mice, we observed widespread atrophy in bilateral regions that project to or receive input from the injection site using MRI. We also identified early deficits in reversal learning prior to the emergence of motor symptoms. Our findings highlight a network of regions with related cellular correlates of pathology that follow the progression of aSyn spreading, and that affect brain areas relevant for reversal learning. Our experiments suggest that M83 hemizygous mice injected with human PFF provides a model to understand how misfolded aSyn affects human-relevant pre-clinical measures and suggest that these pre-clinical biomarkers could be used to detect early toxicity of aSyn and provide better translational measures between mice and human disease.

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