α-Synuclein and neuronal membranes: Conformational flexibilities in health and disease Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Parkinson's disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disease. Currently, PD has no treatment. The neuronal protein α-synuclein (αS) plays an important role in PD. However, the molecular mechanisms governing its physiological and pathological roles are not fully understood. It is becoming widely acknowledged that the biological roles of αS involve interactions with biological membranes. In these biological processes there is a fine-tuned interplay between lipids affecting the properties of αS and αS affecting lipid metabolism, αS binding to membranes, and membrane damage. In this review, the intricate interactions between αS and membranes will be reviewed and a discussion of the relationship between αS and neuronal membrane structural plasticity in health and disease will be made. It is proposed that in healthy neurons the conformational flexibilities of αS and the neuronal membranes are coupled to assist the physiological roles of αS. However, in circumstances where their conformational flexibilities are decreased or uncoupled, there is a shift toward cell toxicity. Strategies to modulate toxic αS-membrane interactions are potential approaches for the development of new therapies for PD. Future work using specific αS molecular species as well as membranes with specific physicochemical properties should widen our understanding of the intricate biological roles of αS which, in turn, would propel the development of new strategies for the treatment of PD.

publication date

  • March 2021