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J Biol Chem. 2003 May 9;278(19):16873-7. Epub 2003 Mar 5.

Lipid binding inhibits alpha-synuclein fibril formation.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, Santa Cruz, California 95064, USA.


Parkinson's disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder, and the cause is unknown; however, substantial evidence implicates the aggregation of alpha-synuclein as a critical factor in the etiology of the disease. alpha-Synuclein is a relatively abundant brain protein of unknown function, and the purified protein is intrinsically unfolded. The amino acid sequence has seven repeats with an apolipoprotein lipid-binding motif, which are predicted to form amphiphilic helices. We have investigated the interaction of alpha-synuclein with lipid vesicles of different sizes and properties by monitoring the effects on the conformation of the protein and the kinetics of fibrillation. The nature of the interaction of alpha-synuclein with vesicles was highly dependent on the phospholipid composition, the ratio of alpha-synuclein to phospholipid, and the size of the vesicles. The strongest interactions were between alpha-synuclein and vesicles composed of 1,2-dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphate/1,2-dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine and 1,2-dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phospho-RAC-(1-glycerol)/1,2-dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine and involved formation of helical structure in alpha-synuclein. A strong correlation was observed between the induction of alpha-helix in alpha-synuclein and the inhibition of fibril formation. Thus, helical, membrane-bound alpha-synuclein is unlikely to contribute to aggregation and fibrillation. Given that a significant fraction of alpha-synuclein is membrane-bound in dopaminergic neurons, this observation has significant physiological significance.

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