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ACS Chem Neurosci. 2015 Sep 16;6(9):1613-25. doi: 10.1021/acschemneuro.5b00158. Epub 2015 Jul 28.

Understanding Caffeine's Role in Attenuating the Toxicity of α-Synuclein Aggregates: Implications for Risk of Parkinson's Disease.

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Department of Biotechnology, National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER) , Sector 67, S.A.S. Nagar, Punjab 160 062, India.


Epidemiological studies report a beneficial relationship between drinking coffee and the risk of developing Parkinson's disease (PD). This is likely due to caffeine, a constituent of coffee, acting as an adenosine A2A receptor antagonist. This study was planned to investigate whether caffeine has any effect on the aggregation of α-synuclein, present in Lewy bodies, the pathological hallmark of PD, which may account for this positive association. Aggregation of recombinant α-synuclein was followed in vitro and in a well-validated yeast proteotoxicity model of PD. Caffeine was found to have twin effects: it accelerated the process of aggregation and also altered the nature of mature aggregates. Aggregates formed in the presence of caffeine displayed amorphous as well as fibrillar morphology. In the presence of caffeine, the toxicity of oligomers and aggregates was diminished, with concomitant reduction in intracellular oxidative stress, decreased oxidative proteome damage, and increased cell survival. Caffeine-treated samples showed improved binding to phospholipids, a property likely to be important in cellular functioning of α-synuclein. Far-UV CD spectroscopy and fluorescence quenching analysis revealed that caffeine induced transient changes in this intrinsically disordered protein, forming a non-native species that enhanced the rate of aggregation of α-synuclein and modified the population of mature aggregates, introducing a higher fraction of amorphous, less toxic species. Increasingly, it is felt that the process of fibrillation itself, along with the nature of mature aggregates, dictates the cytotoxicity of the process. Our results provide a rationale for the observed epidemiological link between drinking coffee and developing PD.


Amorphous aggregates; caffeine; fibrillation; quenching; α-synuclein

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