Mutations in the GBA1 gene encoding the lysosomal enzyme β-glucocerebrosidase (GCase) represent the most common risk factor for Parkinson’s disease (PD). GCase has been identified as a potential therapeutic target for PD and current efforts are focused on chemical chaperones to translocate mutant GCase into lysosomes. However, for several GBA1-linked forms of PD and PD associated with mutations in LRRK2, DJ-1, and PARKIN, activating wild-type GCase represents an alternative approach. We developed a new small-molecule modulator of GCase called S-181 that increased wild-type GCase activity in iPSC-derived dopaminergic neurons from sporadic PD patients, as well as patients carrying the 84GG mutation in GBA1, or mutations in LRRK2, DJ-1, or PARKIN who had decreased GCase activity. S-181 treatment of these PD iPSC-derived dopaminergic neurons partially restored lysosomal function and lowered accumulation of oxidized dopamine, glucosylceramide and α-synuclein. Moreover, S-181 treatment of mice heterozygous for the D409V GBA1 mutation (Gba1D409V/+) resulted in activation of wild-type GCase and consequent reduction of GCase lipid substrates and α-synuclein in mouse brain tissue. Our findings point to activation of wild-type GCase by small-molecule modulators as a potential therapeutic approach for treating familial and sporadic forms of PD that exhibit decreased GCase activity.
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