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Brain. 2003 Jan;126(Pt 1):32-42.

Haploinsufficiency at the alpha-synuclein gene underlies phenotypic severity in familial Parkinson's disease.

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Department of Neurology, Juntendo University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan.


To date, two point mutations, G209A and G88C, have been reported in the coding region of the alpha-synuclein gene in autosomal dominant familial Parkinson's disease. When translated, these lead to the missense mutations Ala53Thr and Ala30Pro, respectively. Reduced mRNA expression of the G209A allele was reported recently in a Greek-American family. Here, we show that alpha-synuclein mRNA is normally expressed in blood cells and report the results of an analysis of alpha-synuclein mRNA and protein expression in lymphoblastoid cell lines established from kindreds with the G209A and G88C mutations. mRNA expression was characterized using a TaqMan real-time quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay. We assessed five affected and three unaffected members of a German family with the G88C mutation and two affected members in different, unrelated Greek families with the G209A mutation. The ratio of wild-type to mutant alpha-synuclein allele expression ranged from 2.2 to 9.2 in the affected individuals with a severe clinical phenotype. The ratios of the expression levels of the wild-type to mutant alleles were only slightly decreased in mild cases and were less than 1.0 in two asymptomatic heterozygotes. Sequence analysis of the RT-PCR products showed only the presence of G in position 88 and G in position 209 in severely affected heterozygotes of the German and Greek families, respectively. High performance liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry demonstrated that, relative to wild-type alpha-synuclein, there is a reduction of Ala30Pro alpha-synuclein in lymphoblastoid cell lines originating from severely affected, but not mildly affected G88C/+ heterozygotes. Taken together, these data indicate that there is haploinsufficiency at the alpha-synuclein gene and that the ratio of expression of the wild-type to mutant alleles correlates with the severity of the clinical phenotype. Furthermore, these findings suggest that haploinsufficiency of alpha-synuclein mutations may contribute to disease progression in these forms of familial Parkinson's disease.

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