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J Mol Neurosci. 2008;34(1):17-22. Epub 2007 Apr 17.

Origins and effects of extracellular alpha-synuclein: implications in Parkinson's disease.

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Center for Geriatric Neuroscience Research, Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology, Department of Biomedical Science and Technology, Konkuk University, Seoul, Republic of Korea.


Misfolding and abnormal aggregation of the neuronal protein alpha-synuclein has been implicated in the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease and related neurological disorders, such as dementia with Lewy bodies. alpha-synuclein is a conventional cytosolic protein and is thought to exert its pathogenic function exclusively in the neuronal cytoplasm in a cell-autonomous manner. However, the current model is being challenged by a series of new observations that demonstrate the presence of alpha-synuclein and its aggregated forms in the extracellular fluid both in vivo and in vitro. Extracellular alpha-synuclein appears to be delivered by unconventional exocytosis of intravesicular alpha-synuclein, although the exact mechanism has not been characterized. Compared to the cytosolic alpha-synuclein, intravesicular alpha-synuclein is prone to aggregation and the potential source of extracellular aggregates. A number of tissue culture studies suggest that exposure to extracellular alpha-synuclein aggregates induces microglial activation, release of pro-inflammatory cytokines from astrocytes, and neurotoxicity. Thus, exocytosis of alpha-synuclein may be an important mechanism for amplifying and spreading degenerative changes from a small group of cells to its surrounding tissues, and it potentially provides therapeutic targets for halting the progression of the disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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