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Neurosci Lett. 2009 May 1;454(3):187-92. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2009.02.056. Epub 2009 Feb 28.

alpha-Synuclein is differentially expressed in mitochondria from different rat brain regions and dose-dependently down-regulates complex I activity.

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Department of Neurobiology and Sino-Japan Joint Laboratory for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Key Laboratory of Neurodegenerative Diseases, Ministry of Education, Xuanwu Hospital of China Capital Medical University, Beijing, China.


alpha-Synuclein (alpha-Syn) abnormality and mitochondrial deficiency are two major changes in the brain of patients with Parkinson's disease (PD). A link between alpha-Syn and mitochondria in PD has been demonstrated by a recent study showing that accumulation of alpha-Syn in the mitochondria from the PD-vulnerable brain regions was associated with decreased complex I activity of these mitochondria. In this study, we examined the normal expressions of alpha-Syn in mitochondria from different regions of the rat brain. We showed that alpha-Syn was highly expressed in the mitochondria in olfactory bulb, hippocampus, striatum, and thalamus, where the cytosolic alpha-Syn was also rich. However, the cerebral cortex and cerebellum were two exceptions, which contained rich cytosolic alpha-Syn but very low or even undetectable levels of mitochondrial alpha-Syn. The close quantitative association between mitochondrial and cytosolic alpha-Syn in most brain regions, suggests that the concentration of cytosolic alpha-Syn may determine the amount of alpha-Syn in mitochondria. This is partially supported by the in vitro experiment showing that incubation of alpha-Syn with endogenous alpha-Syn-undetectable cerebellar mitochondria caused a dose-dependent transport of alpha-Syn to the mitochondria. Moreover, we found that the inhibitory effect of alpha-Syn on complex I activity of mitochondrial respiratory chain was also dose-dependent. These results suggest that alpha-Syn in mitochondria is differentially expressed in different brain regions and the background levels of mitochondrial alpha-Syn may be a potential factor affecting mitochondrial function and predisposing some neurons to degeneration.

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