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J Neurosci. 2002 Apr 15;22(8):3090-9.

A role for alpha-synuclein in the regulation of dopamine biosynthesis.

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Department of Neurology and Center for Biological Imaging, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213, USA.

Erratum in

  • J Neurosci 2002 Oct 15;22(20):9142.


The alpha-synuclein gene is implicated in the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease. Although alpha-synuclein function is uncertain, the protein has homology to the chaperone molecule 14-3-3. In addition, alpha-synuclein can bind to 14-3-3, and both alpha-synuclein and 14-3-3 bind to many of the same proteins. Because 14-3-3 binds to and activates tyrosine hydroxylase, the rate-limiting enzyme in dopamine (DA) biosynthesis, we explored whether alpha-synuclein also bound to tyrosine hydroxylase and influenced its activity. Immunoprecipitation revealed an interaction between alpha-synuclein and tyrosine hydroxylase in brain homogenates and MN9D dopaminergic cells. Colocalization of alpha-synuclein with tyrosine hydroxylase was confirmed by immunoelectron microscopy. To explore the consequences of the interaction, we measured the effect of recombinant alpha-synuclein on tyrosine hydroxylase activity in a cell-free system and observed a dose-dependent inhibition of tyrosine hydroxylase by alpha-synuclein. To measure the impact of alpha-synuclein on tyrosine hydroxylase in dopaminergic cells, we stably transfected MN9D cells with wild-type or A53T mutant alpha-synuclein. Overexpression of wild-type or A53T mutant alpha-synuclein did not significantly alter tyrosine hydroxylase protein levels in our stably transfected cells. However, overexpressing cell lines had significantly reduced tyrosine hydroxylase activity and a corresponding reduction in dopamine synthesis. The reduction in cellular dopamine levels was not caused by increased dopamine catabolism or dopamine efflux. These data suggest that alpha-synuclein plays a role in the regulation of dopamine biosynthesis, acting to reduce the activity of tyrosine hydroxylase. If so, a loss of soluble alpha-synuclein, by reduced expression or aggregation, could increase dopamine synthesis with an accompanying increase in reactive dopamine metabolites.

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