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J Neurosci. 2005 Jun 22;25(25):6016-24.

Intravesicular localization and exocytosis of alpha-synuclein and its aggregates.

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The Parkinson's Institute, Sunnyvale, California 94089, USA.


Alpha-synuclein (alpha-syn), particularly in its aggregated forms, is implicated in the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease and other related neurological disorders. However, the normal biology of alpha-syn and how it relates to the aggregation of the protein are not clearly understood. Because of the lack of the signal sequence and its predominant localization in the cytosol, alpha-syn is generally considered exclusively an intracellular protein. Contrary to this assumption, here, we show that a small percentage of newly synthesized alpha-syn is rapidly secreted from cells via unconventional, endoplasmic reticulum/Golgi-independent exocytosis. Consistent with this finding, we also demonstrate that a portion of cellular alpha-syn is present in the lumen of vesicles. Importantly, the intravesicular alpha-syn is more prone to aggregation than the cytosolic protein, and aggregated forms of alpha-syn are also secreted from cells. Furthermore, secretion of both monomeric and aggregated alpha-syn is elevated in response to proteasomal and mitochondrial dysfunction, cellular defects that are associated with Parkinson's pathogenesis. Thus, intravesicular localization and secretion are part of normal life cycle of alpha-syn and might also contribute to pathological function of this protein.

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