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J Neurosci. 2001 Dec 15;21(24):9549-60.

Expression of A53T mutant but not wild-type alpha-synuclein in PC12 cells induces alterations of the ubiquitin-dependent degradation system, loss of dopamine release, and autophagic cell death.

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Department of Pathology, Columbia University, New York, New York 10032, USA.


Alpha-synuclein mutations have been identified in certain families with Parkinson's disease (PD), and alpha-synuclein is a major component of Lewy bodies. Other genetic data indicate that the ubiquitin-dependent proteolytic system is involved in PD pathogenesis. We have generated stable PC12 cell lines expressing wild-type or A53T mutant human alpha-synuclein. Lines expressing mutant but not wild-type alpha-synuclein show: (1) disruption of the ubiquitin-dependent proteolytic system, manifested by small cytoplasmic ubiquitinated aggregates and by an increase in polyubiquitinated proteins; (2) enhanced baseline nonapoptotic death; (3) marked accumulation of autophagic-vesicular structures; (4) impairment of lysosomal hydrolysis and proteasomal function; and (5) loss of catecholamine-secreting dense core granules and an absence of depolarization-induced dopamine release. Such findings raise the possibility that the primary abnormality in these cells may involve one or more deficits in the lysosomal and/or proteasomal degradation pathways, which in turn lead to loss of dopaminergic capacity and, ultimately, to death. These cells may serve as a model to study the effects of aberrant alpha-synuclein on dopaminergic cell function and survival.

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