The groundbreaking discovery of mutations in the SNCA gene in a rare familial form of Parkinson's disease (PD) has revolutionized our basic understanding of the etiology of PD and other related disorders. Genome-wide Association Studies has demonstrated a wide array of single-nucleotide polymorphisms associated with the increasing risk of developing the more common type, sporadic PD, further corroborating the genetic etiology of PD. Among them, SNCA is a gene responsible for encoding α-synuclein, a protein found to be the major component of Lewy body and Lewy neurite, both of these components are the pathognomonic hallmarks of PD. Thus, it has been postulated that this gene plays specific roles in pathogenesis of PD. Here, we summarize the basic biological characteristics of the wild type of the protein (wt-α-synuclein) as well as genetic and epigenetic features of its encoding gene (SNCA) in PD. Based on these characteristics, SNCA may be involved in PD pathogenesis in at least 2 ways: wt-α-synuclein overexpression and its mutation types via different mechanisms. Associations between SNCA mutations and other Lewy body disorders, such as dementia with Lewy bodies and multiple system atrophy, are also mentioned. Finally, it is necessary to explore the influences which SNCA exerts on clinical and neuropathological phenotypes by promoting the transfer of scientific research into practice, such as clinical evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of the disease. We believe it is promising to target SNCA for developing novel therapeutic strategies for parkinsonism.
Keywords: Epigenetics; Genetics; Mechanism; Parkinsonism; SNCA; Therapy.
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