A new method for quantitative immunoblotting of endogenous α-synuclein

PLoS One. 2013 Nov 20;8(11):e81314. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0081314. eCollection 2013.


β-Sheet-rich aggregates of α-synuclein (αSyn) are the hallmark neuropathology of Parkinson's disease and related synucleinopathies, whereas the principal native structure of αSyn in healthy cells--unfolded monomer or α-helically folded oligomer--is under debate. Our recent crosslinking analysis of αSyn in intact cells showed that a large portion of endogenous αSyn can be trapped as oligomers, most notably as apparent tetramers. One challenge in such studies is accurately quantifying αSyn Western blot signals among samples, as crosslinked αSyn trends toward increased immunoreactivity. Here, we analyzed this phenomenon in detail and found that treatment with the reducible amine-reactive crosslinker DSP strongly increased αSyn immunoreactivity even after cleavage with the reducing agent β-mercaptoethanol. The effect was observed with all αSyn antibodies tested and in all sample types from human brain homogenates to untransfected neuroblastoma cells, permitting easy detection of endogenous αSyn in the latter, which had long been considered impossible. Coomassie staining of blots before and after several hours of washing revealed complete retention of αSyn after DSP/β-mercaptoethanol treatment, in contrast to a marked loss of αSyn without this treatment. The treatment also enhanced immunodetection of the homologs β- and γ-synuclein and of histones, another group of small, lysine-rich proteins. We conclude that by neutralizing positive charges and increasing protein hydrophobicity, amine crosslinker treatment promotes adhesion of αSyn to blotting membranes. These data help explain the recent report of fixing αSyn blots with paraformaldehyde after transfer, which we find produces similar but weaker effects. DSP/β-mercaptoethanol treatment of Western blots should be particularly useful to quantify low-abundance αSyn forms such as extracellular and post-translationally modified αSyn and splice variants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting* / methods
  • Lysine / chemistry
  • alpha-Synuclein / chemistry
  • alpha-Synuclein / metabolism*


  • alpha-Synuclein
  • Lysine