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Parkinson's disease (PD) is a progressive and currently incurable neurological disorder characterised by the loss of midbrain dopaminergic neurons and the accumulation of aggregated alpha-synuclein (a-syn). Oligomeric a-syn is proposed to play a central role in spreading protein aggregation in the brain with associated cellular toxicity contributing to a progressive neurological decline. For this reason, a-syn oligomers have attracted interest as therapeutic targets for neurodegenerative conditions such as PD and other alpha-synucleinopathies. In addition to strategies using small molecules, neutralisation of the toxic oligomers by antibodies represents an attractive and highly specific strategy for reducing disease progression. Emerging active immunisation approaches using vaccines are already being trialled to induce such antibodies. Here we propose a novel vaccine based on the RNA bacteriophage (Qbeta) virus-like particle conjugated with short peptides of human a-syn. High titres of antibodies were successfully and safely generated in wild-type and human a-syn over-expressing (SNCA-OVX) transgenic mice following vaccination. Antibodies from vaccine candidates targeting the C-terminal regions of a-syn were able to recognise Lewy bodies, the hallmark aggregates in human PD brains. Furthermore, antibodies specifically targeted oligomeric and aggregated a-syn as they exhibited 100 times greater affinity for oligomeric species over monomer a-syn proteins in solution. In the SNCA-OVX transgenic mice used, vaccination was, however, unable to confer significant changes to oligomeric a-syn bioburden. Similarly, there was no discernible effect of vaccine treatment on behavioural phenotype as compared to control groups. Thus, antibodies specific for oligomeric a-syn induced by vaccination were unable to treat symptoms of PD in this particular mouse model.

Original publication




Journal article


PloS one

Publication Date





e0181844 - e0181844


Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, United Kingdom.