Author(s): Nakamura K, Nemani VM, Azarbal F, Skibinski G, Levy JM,
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Abstract The protein α-synuclein has a central role in Parkinson disease, but the mechanism by which it contributes to neural degeneration remains unknown. We now show that the expression of α-synuclein in mammalian cells, including neurons in vitro and in vivo, causes the fragmentation of mitochondria. The effect is specific for synuclein, with more fragmentation by α- than β- or γ-isoforms, and it is not accompanied by changes in the morphology of other organelles or in mitochondrial membrane potential. However, mitochondrial fragmentation is eventually followed by a decline in respiration and neuronal death. The fragmentation does not require the mitochondrial fission protein Drp1 and involves a direct interaction of synuclein with mitochondrial membranes. In vitro, synuclein fragments artificial membranes containing the mitochondrial lipid cardiolipin, and this effect is specific for the small oligomeric forms of synuclein. α-Synuclein thus exerts a primary and direct effect on the morphology of an organelle long implicated in the pathogenesis of Parkinson disease.
This article was published in J Biol Chem
and referenced in Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy