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J Alzheimers Dis. 2004 Aug;6(4):435-42; discussion 443-9.

Demonstration of a role for alpha-synuclein as a functional microtubule-associated protein.

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Department of Neural Plasticity, Tokyo Institute of Psychiatry, 2-1-8 Kamikitazawa, Setagaya-ku, 156-8585, Japan.


Alpha-synuclein is a major constituent of pathological intracellular inclusion bodies, a common feature of several neurodegenerative diseases. Two missense mutations in the alpha-synuclein gene have been identified in confirmed autosomal-dominant familial Parkinson's disease, which segregate with the illness. However, the physiological function of alpha-synuclein remains unknown. After biochemical investigations we have revealed tubulin to be an alpha-synuclein associated/binding protein. Here, we show that alpha-synuclein induces polymerization of purified tubulin into microtubules. Mutant forms of alpha-synuclein lose this potential. The binding site of alpha-synuclein to tubulin is identified, and co-localization of alpha-synuclein with microtubules is shown in cultured cells. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of microtubule-polymerizing activity of alpha-synuclein. Now we can see a striking resemblance between alpha-synuclein and tau: both have the same physiological function and pathological features, making abnormal structures in diseased brains known as synucleinopathies and tauopathies. The discovery of a physiological role for alpha-synuclein may provide a new dimension in researches into the mechanisms of alpha-synuclein-associated neurodegenerative diseases.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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