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Formation of toxic oligomeric alpha-synuclein species in living cells. PLoS One 2008 Apr 02;3(4):e1867



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BACKGROUND: Misfolding, oligomerization, and fibrillization of alpha-synuclein are thought to be central events in the onset and progression of Parkinson's disease (PD) and related disorders. Although fibrillar alpha-synuclein is a major component of Lewy bodies (LBs), recent data implicate prefibrillar, oligomeric intermediates as the toxic species. However, to date, oligomeric species have not been identified in living cells.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Here we used bimolecular fluorescence complementation (BiFC) to directly visualize alpha-synuclein oligomerization in living cells, allowing us to study the initial events leading to alpha-synuclein oligomerization, the precursor to aggregate formation. This novel assay provides us with a tool with which to investigate how manipulations affecting alpha-synuclein aggregation affect the process over time. Stabilization of alpha-synuclein oligomers via BiFC results in increased cytotoxicity, which can be rescued by Hsp70 in a process that reduces the formation of alpha-synuclein oligomers. Introduction of PD-associated mutations in alpha-synuclein did not affect oligomer formation but the biochemical properties of the mutant alpha-synuclein oligomers differ from those of wild type alpha-synuclein.

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: This novel application of the BiFC assay to the study of the molecular basis of neurodegenerative disorders enabled the direct visualization of alpha-synuclein oligomeric species in living cells and its modulation by Hsp70, constituting a novel important tool in the search for therapeutics for synucleinopathies.

Author List

Outeiro TF, Putcha P, Tetzlaff JE, Spoelgen R, Koker M, Carvalho F, Hyman BT, McLean PJ


Julie Tetzlaff PhD Associate Dean, Associate Professor in the Pathology department at Medical College of Wisconsin

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

CHO Cells
Cell Line, Tumor
HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins
Lewy Bodies
Microscopy, Fluorescence
Parkinson Disease
Protein Folding
Protein Structure, Tertiary
jenkins-FCD Prod-398 336d56a365602aa89dcc112f077233607d6a5abc