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J Neurosci. 2000 May 1;20(9):3214-20.

Synucleins are developmentally expressed, and alpha-synuclein regulates the size of the presynaptic vesicular pool in primary hippocampal neurons.

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  • 1Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Pennsylvania Medical School, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.


alpha-, beta-, and gamma-Synuclein, a novel family of neuronal proteins, has become the focus of research interest because alpha-synuclein has been increasingly implicated in the pathogenesis of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. However, the normal functions of the synucleins are still unknown. For this reason, we characterized alpha-, beta-, and gamma-synuclein expression in primary hippocampal neuronal cultures and showed that the onset of alpha- and beta-synuclein expression was delayed after synaptic development, suggesting that these synucleins may not be essential for synapse formation. In mature cultured primary neurons, alpha- and beta-synuclein colocalized almost exclusively with synaptophysin in the presynaptic terminal, whereas little gamma-synuclein was expressed at all. To assess the function of alpha-synuclein, we suppressed expression of this protein with antisense oligonucleotide technology. Morphometric ultrastructural analysis of the alpha-synuclein antisense oligonucleotide-treated cultures revealed a significant reduction in the distal pool of synaptic vesicles. These data suggest that one function of alpha-synuclein may be to regulate the size of distinct pools of synaptic vesicles in mature neurons.

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