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Biochemistry. 2006 May 9;45(18):5783-92.

A study of the regional effects of alpha-synuclein on the organization and stability of phospholipid bilayers.

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  • 1Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester, P.O. Box 88, Manchester M60 1QD, United Kingdom.


Associations between the protein alpha-synuclein (alpha-syn) and presynaptic vesicles have been implicated in synaptic plasticity and neurotransmitter release and may also affect how the protein aggregates into fibrils found in Lewy bodies, the cellular inclusions associated with neurodegenerative diseases. This work investigated how alpha-syn interacts with model phospholipid membranes and examined what effect protein binding has upon the physical properties of lipid bilayers. Wide line 2H and 31P NMR spectra of phospholipid vesicles revealed that alpha-syn associates with membranes containing lipids with anionic headgroups and can disrupt the integrity of the lipid bilayer, but the protein has little effect on membranes of zwitterionic phosphatidylcholine. A peptide, alpha-syn(10-48), which corresponds to the lysine-rich N-terminal region of alpha-syn, was found to associate with lipid headgroups with a preference for a negative membrane surface charge. Another peptide, alpha-syn(120-140), which corresponds to the glutamate-rich C-terminal region, also associates weakly with lipid headgroups but with a slightly higher affinity for membranes with no net surface charge than for negatively charged membrane surfaces. Binding of alpha-syn(10-48) and alpha-syn(120-140) to the lipid vesicles did not disrupt the lamellar structure of the membranes, but both peptides appeared to induce the lateral segregation of the lipids into clusters of acidic lipid-enriched and acidic lipid-deficient domains. From these findings, it is speculated that the N-terminal and C-terminal domains of full-length alpha-syn might act in concert to organize the membrane components during normal protein function and perhaps play a role in presynaptic vesicle synthesis, maintenance, and fusion.

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