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J Mol Biol. 2005 Sep 2;351(5):1081-100.

Heat shock prevents alpha-synuclein-induced apoptosis in a yeast model of Parkinson's disease.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, 1501 Kings Highway, Shreveport, LA 71130-3932, USA.


We show that human wild-type alpha synuclein (WT alpha-syn), and the inherited mutants A53T or A30P, when expressed in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae triggers events that are diagnostic of apoptosis: loss of membrane asymmetry due to the externalization of phosphatidylserine, accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), and the release of cytochrome c from mitochondria. A brief heat shock was strikingly protective in that alpha-syn-expressing cells receiving a heat shock exhibited none of these apoptotic markers. Because the heat shock did not decrease the expression level of alpha-syn, a protective protein or proteins, induced by the heat shock, must be responsible for inhibition of alpha-syn-induced apoptosis. Using ROS accumulation as a marker of apoptosis, the role of various genes and various drugs in controlling alpha-syn-induced apoptosis was investigated. Treatment with geldanamycin or glutathione, overexpression of Ssa3 (Hsp70), or deletion of the yeast metacaspase gene YCA1 abolishes the ability of alpha-syn to induce ROS accumulation. Deletion of YCA1 also promotes vigorous growth of alpha-syn-expressing cells compared to cells that contain a functional copy of YCA1. These findings indicate that alpha-syn-induced ROS generation is mediated by the caspase, according to alpha-syn-->caspase-->ROS-->apoptosis. It is shown by co-immunoprecipitation that Ssa3 binds to alpha-syn in a nucleotide-dependent manner. Thus, we propose that Hsp70 chaperones inhibit this sequence of events by binding and sequestering alpha-syn.

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