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J Neurosci. 2001 Oct 15;21(20):8053-61.

Induction of alpha-synuclein aggregation by intracellular nitrative insult.

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Stokes Research Institute and Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and The University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.


Brain lesions containing filamentous and aggregated alpha-synuclein are hallmarks of neurodegenerative synucleinopathies. Oxidative stress has been implicated in the formation of these lesions. Using HEK 293 cells stably transfected with wild-type and mutant alpha-synuclein, we demonstrated that intracellular generation of nitrating agents results in the formation of alpha-synuclein aggregates. Cells were exposed simultaneously to nitric oxide- and superoxide-generating compounds, and the intracellular formation of peroxynitrite was demonstrated by monitoring the oxidation of dihydrorhodamine 123 and the nitration of alpha-synuclein. Light microscopy using antibodies against alpha-synuclein and electron microscopy revealed the presence of perinuclear aggregates under conditions in which peroxynitrite was generated but not when cells were exposed to nitric oxide- or superoxide-generating compounds separately. alpha-Synuclein aggregates were observed in 20-30% of cells expressing wild-type or A53T mutant alpha-synuclein and in 5% of cells expressing A30P mutant alpha-synuclein. No evidence of synuclein aggregation was observed in untransfected cells or cells expressing beta-synuclein. In contrast, selective inhibition of the proteasome resulted in the formation of aggregates detected with antibodies to ubiquitin in the majority of the untransfected cells and cells expressing alpha-synuclein. However, alpha-synuclein did not colocalize with these aggregates, indicating that inhibition of the proteasome does not promote alpha-synuclein aggregation. In addition, proteasome inhibition did not alter the steady-state levels of alpha-synuclein, but addition of the lysosomotropic agent ammonium chloride significantly increased the amount of alpha-synuclein, indicating that lysosomes are involved in degradation of alpha-synuclein. Our data indicate that nitrative and oxidative insult may initiate pathogenesis of alpha-synuclein aggregates.

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