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Biol Chem. 2017 Jan 1;398(1):77-100. doi: 10.1515/hsz-2016-0201.

Alpha-synuclein at the intracellular and the extracellular side: functional and dysfunctional implications.


Alpha-synuclein (α-syn) is an abundant neuronal protein whose physiological function, even if still not completely understood, has been consistently related to synaptic function and vesicle trafficking. A group of disorders known as synucleinopathies, among which Parkinson's disease (PD), is deeply associated with the misfolding and aggregation of α-syn, which can give rise to proteinaceous inclusion known as Lewy bodies (LB). Proteostasis stress is a relevant aspect in these diseases and, currently, the presence of oligomeric α-syn species rather than insoluble aggregated forms, appeared to be associated with cytotoxicity. Many observations suggest that α-syn is responsible for neurodegeneration by interfering with multiple signaling pathways. α-syn protein can directly form plasma membrane channels or modify with their activity, thus altering membrane permeability to ions, abnormally associate with mitochondria and cause mitochondrial dysfunction (i.e. mitochondrial depolarization, Ca2+ dys-homeostasis, cytochrome c release) and interfere with autophagy regulation. The picture is further complicated by the fact that single point mutations, duplications and triplication in α-syn gene are linked to autosomal dominant forms of PD. In this review we discuss the multi-faced aspect of α-syn biology and address the main hypothesis at the basis of its involvement in neuronal degeneration.

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