Many neurodegenerative diseases are characterized by the accumulation of insoluble protein aggregates, including neurofibrillary tangles comprised of tau in Alzheimer's disease and Lewy bodies composed of α-synuclein in Parkinson's disease. Moreover, different pathological proteins frequently codeposit in disease brains. To test whether aggregated α-synuclein can directly cross-seed tau fibrillization, we administered preformed α-synuclein fibrils assembled from recombinant protein to primary neurons and transgenic mice. Remarkably, we discovered two distinct strains of synthetic α-synuclein fibrils that demonstrated striking differences in the efficiency of cross-seeding tau aggregation, both in neuron cultures and in vivo. Proteinase K digestion revealed conformational differences between the two synthetic α-synuclein strains and also between sarkosyl-insoluble α-synuclein extracted from two subgroups of Parkinson's disease brains. We speculate that distinct strains of pathological α-synuclein likely exist in neurodegenerative disease brains and may underlie the tremendous heterogeneity of synucleinopathies.
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