Background: Genetic mutations in beta-glucocerebrosidase (GBA) represent the major genetic risk factor for Parkinson’s disease (PD). GBA participates in both the endo-lysosomal pathway and the immune response, two important mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of PD. However, modifiers of GBA penetrance have not yet been fully elucidated. Methods: We characterized the transcriptomic profiles of circulating monocytes in a population of patients with PD and healthy controls (CTRL) with and without GBA variants (n = 23 PD/GBA, 13 CTRL/GBA, 56 PD, 66 CTRL) and whole blood (n = 616 PD, 362 CTRL, 127 PD/GBA, 165 CTRL/GBA). Differential expression analysis, pathway enrichment analysis, and outlier detection were performed. Ultrastructural characterization of isolated CD14+ monocytes in the four groups was also performed through electron microscopy. Results: We observed hundreds of differentially expressed genes and dysregulated pathways when comparing manifesting and non-manifesting GBA mutation carriers. Specifically, when compared to idiopathic PD, PD/GBA showed dysregulation in genes involved in alpha-synuclein degradation, aging and amyloid processing. Gene-based outlier analysis confirmed the involvement of lysosomal, membrane trafficking, and mitochondrial processing in manifesting compared to non-manifesting GBA-carriers, as also observed at the ultrastructural levels. Transcriptomic results were only partially replicated in an independent cohort of whole blood samples, suggesting cell-type specific changes. Conclusions: Overall, our transcriptomic analysis of primary monocytes identified gene targets and biological processes that can help in understanding the pathogenic mechanisms associated with GBA mutations in the context of PD.
- Parkinson’s disease
- Transcriptomic analysis