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J Biol Chem. 2003 Jul 4;278(27):25009-13. Epub 2003 Apr 28.

Alpha-Synuclein is degraded by both autophagy and the proteasome.

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Department of Medical Genetics, Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, Wellcome/Medical Research Council Building, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Hills Road, United Kingdom.


Parkinson's disease (PD) is characterized by the loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra and the formation of aggregates (Lewy bodies) in neurons. alpha-Synuclein is the major protein in Lewy bodies and rare mutations in alpha-synuclein cause early-onset PD. Consequently, alpha-synuclein is implicated in the pathogenesis of PD. Here, we have investigated the degradation pathways of alpha-synuclein, using a stable inducible PC12 cell model, where the expression of exogenous human wild-type, A30P, or A53T alpha-synuclein can be switched on and off. We have used a panel of inhibitors/stimulators of autophagy and proteasome function and followed alpha-synuclein degradation in these cells. We found that not only is alpha-synuclein degraded by the proteasome, but it is also degraded by autophagy. A role for autophagy was further supported by the presence of alpha-synuclein in organelles with the ultrastructural features of autophagic vesicles. Since rapamycin, a stimulator of autophagy, increased clearance of alpha-synuclein, it merits consideration as a potential therapeutic for Parkinsons disease, as it is designed for chronic use in humans.

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