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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Mar 8;108(10):4194-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1100976108. Epub 2011 Feb 15.

In vivo demonstration that alpha-synuclein oligomers are toxic.

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Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


The aggregation of proteins into oligomers and amyloid fibrils is characteristic of several neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson disease (PD). In PD, the process of aggregation of α-synuclein (α-syn) from monomers, via oligomeric intermediates, into amyloid fibrils is considered the disease-causative toxic mechanism. We developed α-syn mutants that promote oligomer or fibril formation and tested the toxicity of these mutants by using a rat lentivirus system to investigate loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra. The most severe dopaminergic loss in the substantia nigra is observed in animals with the α-syn variants that form oligomers (i.e., E57K and E35K), whereas the α-syn variants that form fibrils very quickly are less toxic. We show that α-syn oligomers are toxic in vivo and that α-syn oligomers might interact with and potentially disrupt membranes.

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