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J Neurosci. 2010 May 19;30(20):6838-51. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5699-09.2010.

Cell-produced alpha-synuclein is secreted in a calcium-dependent manner by exosomes and impacts neuronal survival.

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Division of Basic Neurosciences, Biomedical Research Foundation of the Academy of Athens, Athens 11527, Greece.


alpha-Synuclein is central in Parkinson's disease pathogenesis. Although initially alpha-synuclein was considered a purely intracellular protein, recent data suggest that it can be detected in the plasma and CSF of humans and in the culture media of neuronal cells. To address a role of secreted alpha-synuclein in neuronal homeostasis, we have generated wild-type alpha-synuclein and beta-galactosidase inducible SH-SY5Y cells. Soluble oligomeric and monomeric species of alpha-synuclein are readily detected in the conditioned media (CM) of these cells at concentrations similar to those observed in human CSF. We have found that, in this model, alpha-synuclein is secreted by externalized vesicles in a calcium-dependent manner. Electron microscopy and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry proteomic analysis demonstrate that these vesicles have the characteristic hallmarks of exosomes, secreted intraluminar vesicles of multivesicular bodies. Application of CM containing secreted alpha-synuclein causes cell death of recipient neuronal cells, which can be reversed after alpha-synuclein immunodepletion from the CM. High- and low-molecular-weight alpha-synuclein species, isolated from this CM, significantly decrease cell viability. Importantly, treatment of the CM with oligomer-interfering compounds before application rescues the recipient neuronal cells from the observed toxicity. Our results show for the first time that cell-produced alpha-synuclein is secreted via an exosomal, calcium-dependent mechanism and suggest that alpha-synuclein secretion serves to amplify and propagate Parkinson's disease-related pathology.

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