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Genome Biol. 2002;3(1):REVIEWS3002. Epub 2001 Dec 20.

The synucleins.

Author information

1
Department of Cell and Structural Biology, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801, USA. j-george@uiuc.edu

Abstract

Synucleins are small, soluble proteins expressed primarily in neural tissue and in certain tumors. The family includes three known proteins: alpha-synuclein, beta-synuclein, and gamma-synuclein. All synucleins have in common a highly conserved alpha-helical lipid-binding motif with similarity to the class-A2 lipid-binding domains of the exchangeable apolipoproteins. Synuclein family members are not found outside vertebrates, although they have some conserved structural similarity with plant 'late-embryo-abundant' proteins. The alpha- and beta-synuclein proteins are found primarily in brain tissue, where they are seen mainly in presynaptic terminals. The gamma-synuclein protein is found primarily in the peripheral nervous system and retina, but its expression in breast tumors is a marker for tumor progression. Normal cellular functions have not been determined for any of the synuclein proteins, although some data suggest a role in the regulation of membrane stability and/or turnover. Mutations in alpha-synuclein are associated with rare familial cases of early-onset Parkinson's disease, and the protein accumulates abnormally in Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and several other neurodegenerative illnesses. The current challenge is to understand the normal cellular function of these proteins and how they might contribute to the development of human disease.

PMID:
11806835
PMCID:
PMC150459
DOI:
10.1186/gb-2001-3-1-reviews3002
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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