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J Biol Chem. 1999 Jul 9;274(28):19509-12.

alpha-synuclein fibrillogenesis is nucleation-dependent. Implications for the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease.

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  • 1Amgen, Inc., Thousand Oaks, California 91320-1799, USA.


Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that is pathologically characterized by the presence of intracytoplasmic Lewy bodies, the major components of which are filaments consisting of alpha-synuclein. Two recently identified point mutations in alpha-synuclein are the only known genetic causes of PD. alpha-Synuclein fibrils similar to the Lewy body filaments can be formed in vitro, and we have shown recently that both PD-linked mutations accelerate their formation. This study addresses the mechanism of alpha-synuclein aggregation: we show that (i) it is a nucleation-dependent process that can be seeded by aggregated alpha-synuclein functioning as nuclei, (ii) this fibril growth follows first-order kinetics with respect to alpha-synuclein concentration, and (iii) mutant alpha-synuclein can seed the aggregation of wild type alpha-synuclein, which leads us to predict that the Lewy bodies of familial PD patients with alpha-synuclein mutations will contain both, the mutant and the wild type protein. Finally (iv), we show that wild type and mutant forms of alpha-synuclein do not differ in their critical concentrations. These results suggest that differences in aggregation kinetics of alpha-synucleins cannot be explained by differences in solubility but are due to different nucleation rates. Consequently, alpha-synuclein nucleation may be the rate-limiting step for the formation of Lewy body alpha-synuclein fibrils in Parkinson's disease.

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