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α-Synuclein mediates alterations in membrane conductance: a potential role for α-synuclein oligomers in cell vulnerability

Department of Neuroscience, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC 20057, USA.
European Journal of Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 3.67). 07/2010; 32(1):10-7. DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2010.07266.x
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT alpha-Synuclein has been linked to the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease and other synucleinopathies through its propensity to form toxic oligomers. The exact mechanism for oligomeric synuclein-directed cell vulnerability has not been fully elucidated, but one hypothesis portends the formation of synuclein-containing pores within cell membranes leading to leak channel-mediated calcium influx and subsequent cell death. Here we demonstrate synuclein-induced formation of sodium dodecyl sulfate-stable oligomers, intracellular synuclein-positive aggregates, alterations in membrane conductance reminiscent of leak channels and subsequent cytotoxicity in a dopaminergic-like cell line. Furthermore we demonstrate that the synuclein-induced membrane conductance changes are blocked by direct extracellular application of an anti-synuclein antibody. The work presented here confirms that synuclein overexpression leads to membrane conductance changes and demonstrates for the first time through antibody-blocking studies that synuclein plays a direct role in the formation of leak channels.

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    ABSTRACT: Alpha-synuclein is a presynaptic protein expressed throughout the central nervous system, and it is the main component of Lewy bodies, one of the histopathological features of Parkinson’s disease (PD) which is a progressive and irreversible neurodegenerative disorder. The conformational flexibility of α-synuclein allows it to adopt different conformations, i.e. bound to membranes or form aggregates, the oligomers are believed to be the more toxic species. In this review, we will focus on two major features of α-synuclein, transmission and toxicity that could help to understand the pathological characteristics of PD. One important feature of α-synuclein is its ability to be transmitted from neuron to neuron using mechanisms such as endocytosis, plasma membrane penetration or through exosomes, thus propagating the Lewy body pathology to different brain regions thereby contributing to the progressiveness of PD. The second feature of α-synuclein is that it confers cytotoxicity to recipient cells, principally when it is in an oligomeric state. This form causes mitochondrial dysfunction, endoplasmic reticulum stress, oxidative stress, proteasome impairment, disruption of plasma membrane and pore formation, and lead to apoptosis pathway activation and consequent cell death. The complexity of α-synuclein oligomerization and formation of toxic species could be a major factor for the irreversibility of PD and could also explain the lack of successful therapies to halt the disease.
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