Author(s): Wright JA, Wang X, Brown DR
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Abstract Parkinson's disease and a number of other neurodegenerative diseases have been linked to either genetic mutations in the alpha-synuclein gene or show evidence of aggregates of the alpha-synuclein protein, sometimes in the form of Lewy bodies. There currently is no clear evidence of a distinct neurotoxic species of alpha-synuclein to explain the death of neurons in these diseases. We undertook to assess the toxicity of alpha-synuclein via exogenous application in cell culture. Initially, we showed that only aggregated alpha-synuclein is neurotoxic and requires the presence copper but not iron. Other members of the synuclein family showed no toxicity in any form and inherited point mutations did not alter the effective toxic concentration of alpha-synuclein. Through protein fractionation techniques, we were able to isolate an oligomeric species responsible for the toxicity of alpha-synuclein. This oligomeric species has a unique stellate appearance under EM and again, requires association with copper to induce cell death. The results allow us to suggest that the toxic species of alpha-synuclein in vivo could possibly be these stellate oligomers and not fibrils. Our data provide a link between the recently noted association of copper and alpha-synuclein and a potential role for the combination in causing neurodegeneration.
This article was published in FASEB J
and referenced in Journal of Alzheimers Disease & Parkinsonism