In vivo demonstration that alpha-synuclein oligomers are toxic

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Mar 8;108(10):4194-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1100976108. Epub 2011 Feb 15.


The aggregation of proteins into oligomers and amyloid fibrils is characteristic of several neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson disease (PD). In PD, the process of aggregation of α-synuclein (α-syn) from monomers, via oligomeric intermediates, into amyloid fibrils is considered the disease-causative toxic mechanism. We developed α-syn mutants that promote oligomer or fibril formation and tested the toxicity of these mutants by using a rat lentivirus system to investigate loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra. The most severe dopaminergic loss in the substantia nigra is observed in animals with the α-syn variants that form oligomers (i.e., E57K and E35K), whereas the α-syn variants that form fibrils very quickly are less toxic. We show that α-syn oligomers are toxic in vivo and that α-syn oligomers might interact with and potentially disrupt membranes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biopolymers / toxicity*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Lentivirus / genetics
  • Rats
  • alpha-Synuclein / genetics
  • alpha-Synuclein / metabolism
  • alpha-Synuclein / toxicity*


  • Biopolymers
  • alpha-Synuclein