Role of Alpha-Synuclein in Synaptic Transmission

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Lee, Seung-jae, Ph.D.
Center for Neurologic Disease, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA

Abstract

We know that alph-synuclein is a protein that binds to certain presynaptic (located before as opposed to after the synapses crossed by neurotransmitters) nerve endings.  Learning what function this protein has will
provide insights into its properties in the neuronal system, according to Dr. Seung-Jae Lee.  His studies at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston) should lead to the production of models for early PD pathogenesis (the origination and development of disease) which wouldj, in turn, lead to methods of presymptomatic diagnosis.  With all the onging studies aimed at devising means of neuroprotection, Dr. Lee’s goals are the next logical step.

Progress Report (as of 8/2002)

Dr. Seung-Jae Lee completed his work at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston) and has moved on to the Parkinson’s Institute in San Jose. He has looked at the two forms of alpha-synuclein in rat brains, finding one to be membrane-bound, the other a free form. The former seems to aggregate more commonly than does the latter and, he feels, these aggregates formed within membranes might perturb the integrity of the membranes, possibly leading to cellular degeneration. This has led to studies now ongoing asking how alpha-synuclein might, by starting the inclusion formations, lead to reductions of cell viability (cell death) by affecting these membranes.

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