[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: eLife digest
How do organs and tissues know when to stop growing? A cell communication pathway known as Hippo signaling plays a central role as it can tell cells to stop dividing. It is activated when cells in developing tissues come into contact with each other and causes a protein called Yap1 to be modified, which prevents it from entering the cell nucleus to activate genes that are involved in cell division.
In a zebrafish embryo, an organ called the lateral line forms from a cluster of cells that migrate along the embryo's length. At regular intervals, the cluster deposits small bunches of cells from its trailing end. The resulting loss of cells from the cluster is balanced by cell division at the front of the cluster, which is triggered by another signaling pathway called Wnt signaling. A protein of the ‘Motin’ family called Amotl2a is present in this migrating cluster. Motin proteins form junctions between cells and inhibit the activity of Yap1, but it is not known whether they are involved in regulating the size of organs.
Here, Agarwala et al. used the lateral line as a model to study the control of organ size in zebrafish embryos. The experiments show that when Amotl2a is absent, the migrating cell cluster becomes larger, with the highest levels of cell division occurring at its trailing end. Yap1 and a protein involved in Wnt signaling called Lef1 are also present in the cluster and are required for it to be normal in size. In zebrafish that lack Amotl2a, the additional loss of Yap1 prevents this cluster from becoming too large. From these and other results, it appears that Amotl2a regulates the size of the lateral line cell cluster by restricting the ability of Yap1 and Lef1 to promote cell division.
Agarwala et al.'s findings demonstrate a role for Amotl2a in controlling the size of organs. A future challenge is to understand the details of how it restricts the activities of Yap1 and Lef1.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Nanoscale biological materials formed by the assembly of defined block-domain proteins control the formation of cellular compartments such as organelles. Here, we introduce an approach to intentionally ‘program’ the de novo synthesis and self-assembly of genetically encoded amphiphilic proteins to form cellular compartments, or organelles, in Escherichia coli. These proteins serve as building blocks for the formation of artificial compartments in vivo in a similar way to lipid-based organelles. We investigated the formation of these organelles using epifluorescence microscopy, total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy and transmission electron microscopy. The in vivo modification of these protein-based de novo organelles, by means of site-specific incorporation of unnatural amino acids, allows the introduction of artificial chemical functionalities. Co-localization of membrane proteins results in the formation of functionalized artificial organelles combining artificial and natural cellular function. Adding these protein structures to the cellular machinery may have consequences in nanobiotechnology, synthetic biology and materials science, including the constitution of artificial cells and bio-based metamaterials.
No preview · Article · Jan 2015 · Nature Materials
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Lifespan mutants of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans are a much studied aging model, however, aging-related changes at the metabolome level remain largely unexplored. To identify metabolic features connected to mitochondrial dysfunction, a hallmark of aging and age-related disease, we analyzed a short-lived mitochondrial mutant (mev-1(kn1)), a long-lived mutant with enhanced cellular maintenance (ife-2(ok306)) and the novel double mutant ife-2(ok306);mev-1(kn1) which is normal-lived, possibly through attenuation of the metabolic mev-1 phenotype. Metabolomic analysis involved coupled gas chromatography–mass spectrometry with electron ionization (GC–EI–MS) and, in addition, recently introduced GC with soft atmospheric pressure chemical ionization coupled to time-of-flight mass spectrometry (GC–APCI–TOF–MS) to yield complementary mass spectrometric information for enhanced metabolite annotation. Multivariate analysis allowed distinction of mev-1 and ife-2 mutants from the wild type, while suggesting still another, distinct metabolic phenotype for the ife-2;mev-1 double mutant. In mev-1(kn1), disturbed energy metabolism was indicated by upset TCA cycle homeostasis, elevated glycolytic substrate and lactic acid levels as well as depletion of free amino acids pools. Surprisingly, these mitochondrially related changes were retained in the ife-2;mev-1 mutant, as were highly elevated levels of the dipeptide glycylproline indicative of increased collagen catabolism. However, the double mutant reverted mev-1(kn1) changes in uric acid and long-chain fatty alcohol metabolism, two pathways connected to the peroxisomal compartment. Our results are in line with recent evidence for a critical role of this organelle in aging and demonstrate the usefulness of non-targeted metabolomics approaches for detecting complex metabolic changes in the study of mitochondrial dysfunction.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The nuclear matrix (NM) is an operationally defined structure of the mammalian cell nucleus that resists stringent biochemical extraction procedures applied subsequent to nuclease mediated chromatin digestion of intact nuclei. This comprises removal of soluble biomolecules and chromatin by means of either detergent (LIS: lithium diiodosalicylate) or high salt (AS: ammonium sulphate, sodium chloride) treatment. So far, progress towards defining bona fide NM proteins has been hindered by the problem to distinguish them from co purifying abundant contaminants and extraction method intrinsic precipitation artefacts. Here, we present a highly improved NM purification strategy adding a FACS sorting step for efficient isolation of morphologically homogenous lamin B positive NM specimens. SILAC-based quantitative proteome profiling of LIS, AS or NaCl extracted matrices versus the nuclear proteome together with rigorous statistical filtering enables the compilation of a high quality catalogue of NM proteins commonly enriched between the three different extraction methods. We refer to this set of 272 proteins as the NM central proteome. Quantitative NM retention profiles for 2,381 proteins highlight elementary features of nuclear organisation and correlate well with immunofluorescence staining patterns reported in the Human Protein Atlas, demonstrating that the NM central proteome is significantly enriched in proteins exhibiting a nuclear body as well as nuclear speckle like morphology.
No preview · Article · Aug 2014 · Journal of Proteome Research
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: mTOR kinase is a master growth regulator that can be stimulated by multiple signals, including amino acids and the lysosomal small GTPase Rheb. Recent studies have proposed an important role for the V-ATPase in the sensing of amino acids in the lysosomal lumen. Using the Drosophila wing as a model epithelium, we show here that the V-ATPase is required for Rheb-dependent epithelial growth. We further uncover a positive feedback loop for the control of apical protein uptake that depends on V-ATPase/mTOR signaling. This feedback loop includes Rheb-dependent transcriptional regulation of the multiligand receptor Megalin, which itself is required for Rheb-induced endocytosis. In addition, we provide evidence that long-term mTOR inhibition with rapamycin in mice causes reduction of Megalin levels and proteinuria in the proximal tubular epithelium of the kidney. Thus, our findings unravel a homeostatic mechanism that allows epithelial cells to promote protein uptake under normal conditions and to prevent uptake in lysosomal stress conditions.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Peptide neuromodulators are released from a unique organelle: the dense-core vesicle. Dense-core vesicles are generated at the trans-Golgi and then sort cargo during maturation before being secreted. To identify proteins that act in this pathway, we performed a genetic screen in Caenorhabditis elegans for mutants defective in dense-core vesicle function. We identified two conserved Rab2-binding proteins: RUND-1, a RUN domain protein, and CCCP-1, a coiled-coil protein. RUND-1 and CCCP-1 colocalize with RAB-2 at the Golgi, and rab-2, rund-1, and cccp-1 mutants have similar defects in sorting soluble and transmembrane dense-core vesicle cargos. RUND-1 also interacts with the Rab2 GAP protein TBC-8 and the BAR domain protein RIC-19, a RAB-2 effector. In summary, a pathway of conserved proteins controls the maturation of dense-core vesicles at the trans-Golgi network.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Neurons release neuropeptides via the regulated exocytosis of dense core vesicles (DCVs) to evoke or modulate behaviors. We found that Caenorhabditis elegans motor neurons send most of their DCVs to axons, leaving very few in the cell somas. How neurons maintain this skewed distribution and the extent to which it can be altered to control DCV numbers in axons or to drive release from somas for different behavioral impacts is unknown. Using a forward genetic screen, we identified loss-of-function mutations in UNC-43 (CaM kinase II) that reduce axonal DCV levels by ∼90% and cell soma/dendrite DCV levels by ∼80%, leaving small synaptic vesicles largely unaffected. Blocking regulated secretion in unc-43 mutants restored near wild-type axonal levels of DCVs. Time-lapse video microscopy showed no role for CaM kinase II in the transport of DCVs from cell somas to axons. In vivo secretion assays revealed that much of the missing neuropeptide in unc-43 mutants is secreted via a regulated secretory pathway requiring UNC-31 (CAPS) and UNC-18 (nSec1). DCV cargo levels in unc-43 mutants are similarly low in cell somas and the axon initial segment, indicating that the secretion occurs prior to axonal transport. Genetic pathway analysis suggests that abnormal neuropeptide function contributes to the sluggish basal locomotion rate of unc-43 mutants. These results reveal a novel pathway controlling the location of DCV exocytosis and describe a major new function for CaM kinase II.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Synaptic vesicle (SV) release is spatially and temporally regulated by a network of proteins that form the presynaptic active zone (AZ). The hallmark of most AZs is an electron-dense projection (DP) surrounded by SVs. Despite their importance for our understanding of triggered SV release, high-resolution analyses of DP structures are limited. Using electron microscopy, we show that DPs at Caenorhabditis elegans neuromuscular junctions (NMJs) were highly structured, composed of building units forming bays in which SVs are docked to the AZ membrane. Furthermore, larger ribbonlike DPs that were multimers of the NMJ building unit are found at synapses between inter- and motoneurons. We also demonstrate that DP size is determined by the activity of the AZ protein SYD-2/Liprin-α. Whereas loss of syd-2 function led to smaller DPs, syd-2 gain-of-function mutants displayed larger ribbonlike DPs through increased recruitment of ELKS-1/ELKS. Therefore, our data suggest that a main role of SYD-2/Liprin-α in synaptogenesis is to regulate the polymerization of DPs.
Full-text · Article · Dec 2013 · The Journal of Cell Biology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Local recycling of synaptic vesicles (SVs) allows neurons to sustain transmitter release. Extreme activity (e.g., during seizure) may exhaust synaptic transmission and, in vitro, induces bulk endocytosis to recover SV membrane and proteins; how this occurs in animals is unknown. Following optogenetic hyperstimulation of Caenorhabditis elegans motoneurons, we analyzed synaptic recovery by time-resolved behavioral, electrophysiological, and ultrastructural assays. Recovery of docked SVs and of evoked-release amplitudes (indicating readily-releasable pool refilling) occurred within ∼8-20 s (τ = 9.2 s and τ = 11.9 s), whereas locomotion recovered only after ∼60 s (τ = 20 s). During ∼11-s stimulation, 50- to 200-nm noncoated vesicles ("100nm vesicles") formed, which disappeared ∼8 s poststimulation, likely representing endocytic intermediates from which SVs may regenerate. In endophilin, synaptojanin, and dynamin mutants, affecting endocytosis and vesicle scission, resolving 100nm vesicles was delayed (>20 s). In dynamin mutants, 100nm vesicles were abundant and persistent, sometimes continuous with the plasma membrane; incomplete budding of smaller vesicles from 100nm vesicles further implicates dynamin in regenerating SVs from bulk-endocytosed vesicles. Synaptic recovery after exhaustive activity is slow, and different time scales of recovery at ultrastructural, physiological, and behavioral levels indicate multiple contributing processes. Similar processes may jointly account for slow recovery from acute seizures also in higher animals.
Full-text · Article · Jul 2013 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Alteration of cortical actin structures is the common final pathway leading to podocyte foot process effacement and proteinuria. The molecular mechanisms that safeguard podocyte foot process architecture and maintain the three-dimensional actin network remain elusive. Here, we demonstrate that neuronal Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome protein (N-WASP), which promotes actin nucleation, is required to stabilize podocyte foot processes. Mice lacking N-WASP specifically in podocytes were born with normal kidney function but developed significant proteinuria 3 weeks after birth, suggesting an important role for N-WASP in maintaining foot processes. In addition, inducing deletion of N-WASP in adult mice resulted in severe proteinuria and kidney failure. Electron microscopy showed an accumulation of electron-dense patches of actin and strikingly altered morphology of podocyte foot processes. Although basic actin-based processes such as cell migration were not affected, primary cultures of N-WASP-deficient podocytes revealed significant impairment of dynamic actin reorganization events, including the formation of circular dorsal ruffles. Taken together, our findings suggest that N-WASP-mediated actin nucleation of branched microfilament networks is specifically required for the maintenance of foot processes, presumably sustaining the mechanical resistance of the filtration barrier.
No preview · Article · Mar 2013 · Journal of the American Society of Nephrology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Mutations in the Tar DNA binding protein of 43 kDa (TDP-43; TARDBP) are associated with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP-43+ inclusions (FTLD-TDP). To determine the physiological function of TDP-43, we knocked out zebrafish Tardbp and its paralogue Tardbp (TAR DNA binding protein-like), which lacks the glycine-rich domain where ALS- and FTLD-TDP-associated mutations cluster. tardbp mutants show no phenotype, a result of compensation by a unique splice variant of tardbpl that additionally contains a C-terminal elongation highly homologous to the glycine-rich domain of tardbp. Double-homozygous mutants of tardbp and tardbpl show muscle degeneration, strongly reduced blood circulation, mispatterning of vessels, impaired spinal motor neuron axon outgrowth, and early death. In double mutants the muscle-specific actin binding protein Filamin Ca is up-regulated. Strikingly, Filamin C is similarly increased in the frontal cortex of FTLD-TDP patients, suggesting aberrant expression in smooth muscle cells and TDP-43 loss-of-function as one underlying disease mechanism.
Preview · Article · Mar 2013 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Neurons secrete neuropeptides from dense core vesicles (DCVs) to modulate neuronal activity. Little is known about how neurons manage to differentially regulate the release of synaptic vesicles (SVs) and DCVs. To analyze this, we screened all Caenorhabditis elegans Rab GTPases and Tre2/Bub2/Cdc16 (TBC) domain containing GTPase-activating proteins (GAPs) for defects in DCV release from C. elegans motoneurons. rab-5 and rab-10 mutants show severe defects in DCV secretion, whereas SV exocytosis is unaffected. We identified TBC-2 and TBC-4 as putative GAPs for RAB-5 and RAB-10, respectively. Multiple Rabs and RabGAPs are typically organized in cascades that confer directionality to membrane-trafficking processes. We show here that the formation of release-competent DCVs requires a reciprocal exclusion cascade coupling RAB-5 and RAB-10, in which each of the two Rabs recruits the other's GAP molecule. This contributes to a separation of RAB-5 and RAB-10 domains at the Golgi-endosomal interface, which is lost when either of the two GAPs is inactivated. Taken together, our data suggest that RAB-5 and RAB-10 cooperate to locally exclude each other at an essential stage during DCV sorting.
Full-text · Article · Oct 2012 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Caenorhabditis elegans RAB-10 and mammalian Rab10 are key regulators of endocytic recycling, especially in the basolateral recycling pathways of polarized epithelial cells. To understand better how RAB-10 contributes to recycling endosome function, we sought to identify RAB-10 effectors. One RAB-10-binding partner that we identified, CNT-1, is the only C. elegans homolog of the mammalian Arf6 GTPase-activating proteins ACAP1 and ACAP2. Arf6 is known to regulate endosome-to-plasma membrane transport, in part through activation of type I phophatidylinositol-4-phosphate 5 kinase. Here we show that CNT-1 binds to RAB-10 through its C-terminal ankyrin repeats and colocalizes with RAB-10 and ARF-6 on recycling endosomes in vivo. Furthermore, we find that RAB-10 is required for the recruitment of CNT-1 to endosomal membranes in the intestinal epithelium. Consistent with negative regulation of ARF-6 by RAB-10 and CNT-1, we found overaccumulation of endosomal phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate [PI(4,5)P2] in cnt-1 and rab-10 mutants and reduced endosomal PI(4,5)P2 levels in arf-6 mutants. These mutants produced similar effects on endosomal recruitment of the PI(4,5)P2-dependent membrane-bending proteins RME-1/Ehd and SDPN-1/Syndapin/Pacsin and resulted in endosomal trapping of specific recycling cargo. Our studies identify a RAB-10-to-ARF-6 regulatory loop required to regulate endosomal PI(4,5)P2, a key phosphoinositide in membrane traffic.
Full-text · Article · Aug 2012 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Synapse formation and maturation requires bidirectional communication across the synaptic cleft. The trans-synaptic Neurexin-Neuroligin complex can bridge this cleft, and severe synapse assembly deficits are found in Drosophila melanogaster neuroligin (Nlg1, dnlg1) and neurexin (Nrx-1, dnrx) mutants. We show that the presynaptic active zone protein Syd-1 interacts with Nrx-1 to control synapse formation at the Drosophila neuromuscular junction. Mutants in Syd-1 (RhoGAP100F, dsyd-1), Nrx-1 and Nlg1 shared active zone cytomatrix defects, which were nonadditive. Syd-1 and Nrx-1 formed a complex in vivo, and Syd-1 was important for synaptic clustering and immobilization of Nrx-1. Consequently, postsynaptic clustering of Nlg1 was affected in Syd-1 mutants, and in vivo glutamate receptor incorporation was changed in Syd-1, Nrx-1 and Nlg1 mutants. Stabilization of nascent Syd-1-Liprin-α (DLiprin-α) clusters, important to initialize active zone formation, was Nlg1 dependent. Thus, cooperation between Syd-1 and Nrx-1-Nlg1 seems to orchestrate early assembly processes between pre- and postsynaptic membranes, promoting avidity of newly forming synaptic scaffolds.
Full-text · Article · Aug 2012 · Nature Neuroscience
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Dense core vesicles (DCVs) are thought to be generated at the late Golgi apparatus as immature DCVs, which subsequently undergo a maturation process through clathrin-mediated membrane remodeling events. This maturation process is required for efficient processing of neuropeptides within DCVs and for removal of factors that would otherwise interfere with DCV release. Previously, we have shown that the GTPase, RAB-2, and its effector, RIC-19, are involved in DCV maturation in Caenorhabditis elegans motoneurons. In rab-2 mutants, specific cargo is lost from maturing DCVs and missorted into the endosomal/lysosomal degradation route. Cargo loss could be prevented by blocking endosomal delivery. This suggests that RAB-2 is involved in retention of DCV components during the sorting process at the Golgi-endosomal interface. To understand how RAB-2 activity is regulated at the Golgi, we screened for RAB-2-specific GTPase activating proteins (GAPs). We identified a potential RAB-2 GAP, TBC-8, which is exclusively expressed in neurons and which, when depleted, shows similar DCV maturation defects as rab-2 mutants. We could demonstrate that RAB-2 binds to its putative GAP, TBC-8. Interestingly, TBC-8 also binds to the RAB-2 effector, RIC-19. This interaction appears to be conserved as TBC-8 also interacted with the human ortholog of RIC-19, ICA69. Therefore, we propose that a dynamic ON/OFF cycling of RAB-2 at the Golgi induced by the GAP/effector complex is required for proper DCV maturation.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The plant hormone auxin is a mobile signal which affects nuclear transcription by regulating the stability of auxin/indole-3-acetic acid (IAA) repressor proteins. Auxin is transported polarly from cell to cell by auxin efflux proteins of the PIN family, but it is not as yet clear how auxin levels are regulated within cells and how access of auxin to the nucleus may be controlled. The Arabidopsis genome contains eight PINs, encoding proteins with a similar membrane topology. While five of the PINs are typically targeted polarly to the plasma membranes, the smallest members of the family, PIN5 and PIN8, seem to be located not at the plasma membrane but in endomembranes. Here we demonstrate by electron microscopy analysis that PIN8, which is specifically expressed in pollen, resides in the endoplasmic reticulum and that it remains internally localized during pollen tube growth. Transgenic Arabidopsis and tobacco plants were generated overexpressing or ectopically expressing functional PIN8, and its role in control of auxin homeostasis was studied. PIN8 ectopic expression resulted in strong auxin-related phenotypes. The severity of phenotypes depended on PIN8 protein levels, suggesting a rate-limiting activity for PIN8. The observed phenotypes correlated with elevated levels of free IAA and ester-conjugated IAA. Activation of the auxin-regulated synthetic DR5 promoter and of auxin response genes was strongly repressed in seedlings overexpressing PIN8 when exposed to 1-naphthalene acetic acid. Thus, our data show a functional role for endoplasmic reticulum-localized PIN8 and suggest a mechanism whereby PIN8 controls auxin thresholds and access of auxin to the nucleus, thereby regulating auxin-dependent transcriptional activity.
Full-text · Article · Apr 2012 · The Plant Journal
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Presynaptic nerve terminals are formed from preassembled vesicles that are delivered to the prospective synapse by kinesin-mediated axonal transport. However, precisely how the various cargoes are linked to the motor proteins remains unclear. Here, we report a transport complex linking syntaxin 1a (Stx) and Munc18, two proteins functioning in synaptic vesicle exocytosis at the presynaptic plasma membrane, to the motor protein Kinesin-1 via the kinesin adaptor FEZ1. Mutation of the FEZ1 ortholog UNC-76 in Caenorhabditis elegans causes defects in the axonal transport of Stx. We also show that binding of FEZ1 to Kinesin-1 and Munc18 is regulated by phosphorylation, with a conserved site (serine 58) being essential for binding. When expressed in C. elegans, wild-type but not phosphorylation-deficient FEZ1 (S58A) restored axonal transport of Stx. We conclude that FEZ1 operates as a kinesin adaptor for the transport of Stx, with cargo loading and unloading being regulated by protein kinases.
Full-text · Article · Mar 2012 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In yeast the Golgi-associated retrograde protein (GARP) complex is required for tethering of endosome-derived transport vesicles to the late Golgi. It consists of four subunits-Vps51p, Vps52p, Vps53p, and Vps54p-and shares similarities with other multimeric tethering complexes, such as the conserved oligomeric Golgi (COG) and the exocyst complex. Here we report the functional characterization of the GARP complex in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Furthermore, we identified the C. elegans Vps51 subunit, which is conserved in all eukaryotes. GARP mutants are viable but show lysosomal defects. We show that GARP subunits bind specific sets of Golgi SNAREs within the yeast two-hybrid system. This suggests that the C. elegans GARP complex also facilitates tethering as well as SNARE complex assembly at the Golgi. The GARP and COG tethering complexes may have overlapping functions for retrograde endosome-to-Golgi retrieval, since loss of both complexes leads to a synthetic lethal phenotype.
Full-text · Article · May 2011 · Molecular biology of the cell
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Export of proteins from the endoplasmic reticulum in COPII-coated vesicles occurs at defined sites that contain the scaffolding protein Sec16. We identify TFG-1, a new conserved regulator of protein secretion that interacts directly with SEC-16 and controls the export of cargoes from the endoplasmic reticulum in Caenorhabditis elegans. Hydrodynamic studies indicate that TFG-1 forms hexamers that facilitate the co-assembly of SEC-16 with COPII subunits. Consistent with these findings, TFG-1 depletion leads to a marked decline in both SEC-16 and COPII levels at endoplasmic reticulum exit sites. The sequence encoding the amino terminus of human TFG has been previously identified in chromosome translocation events involving two protein kinases, which created a pair of oncogenes. We propose that fusion of these kinases to TFG relocalizes their activities to endoplasmic reticulum exit sites, where they prematurely phosphorylate substrates during endoplasmic reticulum export. Our findings provide a mechanism by which translocations involving TFG can result in cellular transformation and oncogenesis.
Full-text · Article · May 2011 · Nature Cell Biology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Aggregation of α-synuclein (αS) is involved in the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease (PD) and a variety of related neurodegenerative disorders. The physiological function of αS is largely unknown. We demonstrate with in vitro vesicle fusion experiments that αS has an inhibitory function on membrane fusion. Upon increased expression in cultured cells and in Caenorhabditis elegans, αS binds to mitochondria and leads to mitochondrial fragmentation. In C. elegans age-dependent fragmentation of mitochondria is enhanced and shifted to an earlier time point upon expression of exogenous αS. In contrast, siRNA-mediated downregulation of αS results in elongated mitochondria in cell culture. αS can act independently of mitochondrial fusion and fission proteins in shifting the dynamic morphologic equilibrium of mitochondria towards reduced fusion. Upon cellular fusion, αS prevents fusion of differently labelled mitochondrial populations. Thus, αS inhibits fusion due to its unique membrane interaction. Finally, mitochondrial fragmentation induced by expression of αS is rescued by coexpression of PINK1, parkin or DJ-1 but not the PD-associated mutations PINK1 G309D and parkin Δ1-79 or by DJ-1 C106A.