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Neurodegener Dis. 2008;5(3-4):218-21. doi: 10.1159/000113707. Epub 2008 Mar 6.

The role of alpha-synuclein in neurodegenerative diseases: a potential target for new treatment strategies?

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Institute of Experimental Pharmacology, JSW Research, Graz, Austria.


Alpha-synuclein (AS) is the main constituent of Lewy bodies. There is an ongoing discussion if overexpression is already dangerous, or if toxicity is subjected to oligomers, protofibrils or mature aggregates. The facts that the central hydrophobic part of AS is also a constituent of amyloid plaques in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and that a majority of patients have Lewy bodies and Lewy neurites in specific brain areas raised our interest in the contribution of AS to AD pathogenesis. The N-terminal amino acid sequence 1-15 of beta-synuclein (BS) seems to be a natural antiaggregation factor for AS. We synthesized a library with different sequence variations. Several of these peptides displayed neuroprotective activity in tissue culture models of neurodegeneration induced by oxidative stress or beta-amyloid 1-42. In spite of the fact that these peptides have a short half-life, a significant in vivo reduction in brain plaque load and improvement of behavior was demonstrated in amyloid precursor protein transgenic mice after intranasal treatment for 2 months. KEGV, the shortest sequence, was also active after intraperitoneal application. The in vitro effects cannot be explained by the antiaggregatory potential, but most likely by interaction of BS derivates with antiapoptotic PI3/Akt or antioxidative pathways. The possibility that BS-derived peptidomimetics act as neuroprotectants and prevent protein misfolding suggests therapeutic usefulness.

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