Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Neuropharmacology. 2003 Jul;45(1):14-44.

Part II: alpha-synuclein and its molecular pathophysiological role in neurodegenerative disease.

Author information

Novartis Pharma AG, Nervous System Research, WKL125.5.13, CH-4002 Basel, Switzerland.


Alpha-synuclein (alphaSN) brain pathology is a conspicuous feature of several neurodegenerative diseases. These include prevalent conditions such as Parkinson's disease (PD), dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), and the Lewy body variant of Alzheimer's disease (LBVAD), as well as rarer conditions including multiple systems atrophy (MSA), and neurodegeneration with brain iron accumulation type-1 (NBIA-1). Common in these diseases, some referred to as alpha-synucleinopathies, are microscopic proteinaceous insoluble inclusions in neurons and glia that are composed largely of fibrillar aggregates of alphaSN. This molecular form of alphaSN contrasts sharply with normal alphaSN, which is an abundant soluble presynaptic protein in brain neurons. alphaSN is a highly conserved protein in vertebrates and only seven of its 140 amino acids differ between human and mouse. Flies lack an alphaSN gene. Implicated in neurotoxicity are two alphaSN mutants (A53T and A30P) that cause extremely rare familial forms of PD, alphaSN fibrils and protofibrils, soluble protein complexes of alphaSN with 14-3-3 protein, and phosphorylated, nitrosylated, and ubiquitylated alphaSN species. Unlike rare forms of fPD caused by mutations in alphaSN, disease mechanisms in most alpha-synucleinopathies implicate wildtype alphaSN and seem to converge around oxidative damage and impairments in protein catabolism. It is not known whether these causalities involve alphaSN from the beginning, but defects in the handling of this protein seem to contribute to disease progression because accumulation of toxic alphaSN forms damage neurons. Here, we summarize the main structural features of alphaSN and its functions, and discuss the molecular alphaSN species implicated in human disease and transgenic animal models of alpha-synucleinopathy in fly and rodents.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Elsevier Science
    Loading ...
    Support Center