Red blood cells are the major source of alpha-synuclein in blood

Neurodegener Dis. 2008;5(2):55-9. doi: 10.1159/000112832. Epub 2008 Jan 4.


Background: Alpha-synuclein has been directly linked to Parkinson's disease etiology by mutations in and multiplication of its gene that result in a familial form of Parkinson's disease. Alpha-synuclein has been detected in blood, and was found to be elevated in the blood of those individuals with the alpha-synuclein gene multiplication.

Objective: A complete analysis of the level of alpha-synuclein in blood has not been performed. In this report, we determine the quantitative distribution of alpha-synuclein in the plasma and different cellular fractions of human blood. The levels of alpha-synuclein in human and mouse blood are compared.

Methods: Alpha-synuclein levels in the different fractions of blood were quantified by a sandwich ELISA with purified recombinant alpha-synuclein as an assay standard. Samples were further characterized by Western immunoblot analysis.

Results: More than 99% of the alpha-synuclein resides in the red blood cells (RBCs) with less than 1% of the total detected in the plasma, platelets and peripheral blood mononuclear cells.

Conclusions: More than 99% of the alpha-synuclein in human blood is present in the peripheral blood cells, with the remainder in plasma. Fractionation of peripheral blood cells from human blood and quantification of alpha-synuclein revealed that only a very small amount of the total alpha-synuclein is present in peripheral blood mononuclear cells, and platelets, with the majority of alpha-synuclein in blood being present in RBCs. Considering the abundance and fragility of RBCs, alpha-synuclein levels in these other blood fractions or other bodily fluids such as cerebrospinal fluid may be artificially elevated by contamination with intact or lysed RBCs.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Erythrocytes / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • alpha-Synuclein / analysis
  • alpha-Synuclein / blood*


  • alpha-Synuclein