Individual Amino Acid Supplementation Can Improve Energy Metabolism and Decrease ROS Production in Neuronal Cells Overexpressing Alpha-Synuclein

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Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by alpha-synuclein accumulation and loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra (SN) region of the brain. Increased levels of alpha-synuclein have been shown to result in loss of mitochondrial electron transport chain complex I activity leading to increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. WT alpha-synuclein was stably overexpressed in human BE(2)-M17 neuroblastoma cells resulting in increased levels of an alpha-synuclein multimer, but no increase in alpha-synuclein monomer levels. Oxygen consumption was decreased by alpha-synuclein overexpression, but ATP levels did not decrease and ROS levels did not increase. Treatment with ferrous sulfate, a ROS generator, resulted in decreased oxygen consumption in both control and alpha-synuclein overexpressing cells. However, this treatment only decreased ATP levels and increased ROS production in the cells overexpressing alpha-synuclein. Similarly, paraquat, another ROS generator, decreased ATP levels in the alpha-synuclein overexpressing cells, but not in the control cells, further demonstrating how alpha-synuclein sensitized the cells to oxidative insult. Proteomic analysis yielded molecular insights into the cellular adaptations to alpha-synuclein overexpression, such as the increased abundance of many mitochondrial proteins. Many amino acids and citric acid cycle intermediates and their ester forms were individually supplemented to the cells with l-serine, l-proline, l-aspartate, or l-glutamine decreasing ROS production in oxidatively stressed alpha-synuclein overexpressing cells, while diethyl oxaloacetate or l-valine supplementation increased ATP levels. These results suggest that dietary supplementation with individual metabolites could yield bioenergetic improvements in PD patients to delay loss of dopaminergic neurons.