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Does alpha-synuclein confer protection or damage to dopaminergic neurons in Parkinson’s disease?

is a principal component of Lewy bodies and Lewy neurites, which are pathologic hall-marks of Parkinson’s disease.

Alpha-synuclein is generally considered to play a role in synaptic activity, although its function remains largely unknown.

Accumulative evidence has been shown that aggregated extracellular alpha-synuclein fibrils can be internalized in the cells and enhance the intracellular formation of protein inclusions, leading to cell death. Conversely, there is emerging evidence suggesting that alpha-synuclein has also neuroprotective effects.

In one study, extracellular alpha-synuclein treatment at nanomolar concentrations protected neurons against cellular stresses such as serum deprivation, oxidative stress, and excitotoxicity through the PI3/Akt signaling pathway.

In a transgenic mouse model, the increased expression of alpha-synuclein prevented paraquat-induced dopaminergic cell degeneration.

Thus far, it is uncertain as to whether alpha-synuclein plays a favorable role for neurons at nanomolar concentrations.

Beom S. Jeon and team from Inje University Seoul Paik Hospital in South Korea for the first time provide evidence that extracellular alpha-synuclein enhances neuronal survival at a nanomolar concentration (50 and 100 nmol/L) and this effect is most likely mediated by the Akt pathway. Their study published in Neural Regeneration Research (Vol. 8, No. 35, 2013) can update the role of alpha-synuclein in neuronal cells and its involvement in Parkinson’s disease and related diseases.


Article: ” Nanomolar concentration of alpha-synuclein enhances dopaminergic neuronal survival via Akt pathway ” by Ji-Young Kim1, Beom Seok. Jeon2, Han-Joon Kim2, Tae-Beom Ahn3 (1 Department of Neurology, Inje University Seoul Paik Hospital, Seoul, South Korea; 2 Department of Neurology, College of Medicine, Seoul National University Hospital, Seoul, South Korea; 3 Department of Neurology, Kyung Hee University Medical Center, Seoul, South Korea)

Kim JY, Jeon BS, Kim HJ, Ahn TB. Nanomolar concentration of alpha-synuclein enhances dopaminergic neuronal survival via Akt pathway. Neural Regen Res. 2013;8(35):3269-3274.Neural Regeneration Research