, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 285-299
Date: 17 Apr 2007

Mechanistic aspects of Parkinson’s disease: α-synuclein and the biomembrane

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A key feature in Parkinson’s disease is the deposition of Lewy bodies. The major protein component of these intracellular deposits is the 140-amino acid protein α-synuclein that is widely distributed throughout the brain. α-synuclein was identified in presynaptic terminals and in synaptosomal preparations. The protein is remarkable for its structural variability. It is almost unstructured as a monomer in aqueous solution. Self-aggregation leads to a variety of β-structures, while membrane association may result in the formation of an amphipathic helical structure. The present article strives to give an overview of what is currently known on the interaction of α-synuclein with lipid membranes, including synthetic lipid bilayers, membraneous cell fractions, synaptic vesicles and intact cells. Manifestations of a functional relevance of the α-synuclein–lipid interaction will be discussed and the potential pathogenicity of oligomeric α-synuclein aggregates will be briefly reviewed.