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Ann Neurol. 2006 Mar;59(3):449-58.

Interface between tauopathies and synucleinopathies: a tale of two proteins.

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  • 1Movement Disorders Center, Toronto Western Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Neurodegenerative diseases are often classified based on the abnormal accumulation of synuclein or tau. Traditionally, these disorders have been viewed as distinct clinical and pathological entities. However, advances in molecular genetics and protein biochemistry have shown intriguing overlaps. The most common synucleinopathy, Parkinson's disease, is characterized by extrapyramidal motor dysfunction, whereas the most common tauopathy, Alzheimer's disease, is defined by dementia. Yet there is overlap of clinical features; Parkinson's disease patients frequently have dementia, and Alzheimer's disease patients often manifest parkinsonism. Dementia with Lewy bodies exemplifies the existence of a continuum among these diseases. This overlap extends to the neuropathological findings; the pathognomonic hallmark for one set of disorders, Lewy bodies or neurofibrillary tangles, is present more often than expected in the other set. Moreover, mutations in LRRK2 known to cause parkinsonism are associated not only with dopaminergic neuronal degeneration, but also with the accumulation of synuclein, tau, neither, or both proteins. Other shared genetic features between tauopathies and synucleinopathies also exist. Finally, the known protein interactions between tau and synuclein further highlight the interface. Evidence for the intersection of tauopathies and synucleinopathies indicates the need for an updated disease classification scheme and may have important implications for therapeutic development.

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