In Parkinson's disease (PD), conformational changes in the alpha-synuclein monomer precede the formation of Lewy bodies. We examined postmortem PD and undiseased (control) substantia nigra for evidence of pathological crosslinking of alpha-synuclein by tissue transglutaminase (tTG) using immunohistochemistry, immunoprecipitation, and Western blot. Consistent with previous reports, we found that both tTG and its substrate-characteristic N(epsilon)-(gamma-glutamyl)-lysine crosslink are increased in PD nigral dopamine neurons. Furthermore, both the tTG protein and its substrate crosslink coprecipitated with alpha-synuclein in extracts of PD substantia nigra. Unexpectedly, the isodipeptide crosslink was detected in the alpha-synuclein monomer as well as in higher molecular mass oligomers of alpha-synuclein. Although the intramolecularly crosslinked alpha-synuclein monomer was present in control tissue, it was highly enriched in PD substantia nigra. Conversely, significantly less uncrosslinked alpha-synuclein remained in the postimmunoprecipitate lysate of PD tissue than in control. Crosslinked alpha-synuclein, formed at the expense of the total alpha-synuclein monomer, correlated with disease progression. These results demonstrate that much of the alpha-synuclein monomer in PD nigra is crosslinked by tTG and thus may be functionally impaired. This modification appears to be an early step in PD pathogenesis, preceding the aggregation of alpha-synuclein in Lewy bodies.