Background: Aggregation of the α-Synuclein (α-Syn) protein, amyloid fibril formation and progressive neurodegeneration are the neuropathological hallmarks of Parkinson's Disease (PD). However, a detailed mechanism of α-Syn aggregation/fibrillogenesis and the exact nature of toxic oligomeric species produced during amyloid formation process are still unknown.
Results: In this study, the rates of α-Syn aggregation were compared for the recombinant wild-type (WT) α-Syn and a structurally relevant chimeric homologous protein containing an inducible Fv dimerizing domain (α-SynFv), capable to form dimers in the presence of a divalent ligand (AP20187). In the presence of AP20187, we report a rapid random coil into β-sheet conformational transformation of α-SynFv within 24 h, whereas WT α-Syn showed 24 h delay to achieve β-sheet structure after 48 h. Fluorescence ANS and ThT binding experiments demonstrate an accelerated oligomer/amyloid formation of dimerized α-SynFv, compared to the slower oligomerization and amyloidogenesis of WT α-Syn or α-SynFv without dimerizer AP20187. Both α-SynFv and α-Syn pre-fibrillar aggregates internalized cells and induced neurotoxicity when injected into the hippocampus of wild-type mice. These recombinant toxic aggregates further converted into non-toxic amyloids which were successfully amplified by protein misfolding cyclic amplification method, providing the first evidence for the in vitro propagation of synthetic α-Syn aggregates.
Conclusions: Together, we show that dimerization is important for α-Syn conformational transition and aggregation. In addition, α-Syn dimerization can accelerate the formation of neurotoxic aggregates and amyloid fibrils which can be amplified in vitro. A detailed characterization of the mechanism of α-Syn aggregation/amyloidogenesis and toxicity is crucial to comprehend Parkinson's disease pathology at the molecular level.