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EMBO J. 2009 Oct 21;28(20):3256-68. doi: 10.1038/emboj.2009.257. Epub 2009 Sep 10.

Pre-fibrillar alpha-synuclein variants with impaired beta-structure increase neurotoxicity in Parkinson's disease models.

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Department for NMR-based Structural Biology, Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Am Fassberg, Göttingen, Germany.


The relation of alpha-synuclein (alphaS) aggregation to Parkinson's disease (PD) has long been recognized, but the mechanism of toxicity, the pathogenic species and its molecular properties are yet to be identified. To obtain insight into the function different aggregated alphaS species have in neurotoxicity in vivo, we generated alphaS variants by a structure-based rational design. Biophysical analysis revealed that the alphaS mutants have a reduced fibrillization propensity, but form increased amounts of soluble oligomers. To assess their biological response in vivo, we studied the effects of the biophysically defined pre-fibrillar alphaS mutants after expression in tissue culture cells, in mammalian neurons and in PD model organisms, such as Caenorhabditis elegans and Drosophila melanogaster. The results show a striking correlation between alphaS aggregates with impaired beta-structure, neuronal toxicity and behavioural defects, and they establish a tight link between the biophysical properties of multimeric alphaS species and their in vivo function.

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