Alpha-synuclein overexpression negatively regulates insulin receptor substrate 1 by activating mTORC1/S6K1 signaling

Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2015 Jul;64:25-33. doi: 10.1016/j.biocel.2015.03.006. Epub 2015 Mar 23.


Alpha-synuclein (α-Syn) is a major component of Lewy bodies, a pathological feature of Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative diseases collectively known as synucleinopathies. Among the possible mechanisms of α-Syn-mediated neurotoxicity is interference with cytoprotective pathways such as insulin signaling. Insulin receptor substrate (IRS)-1 is a docking protein linking IRs to downstream signaling pathways such as phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/Akt and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR)/ribosomal protein S6 kinase (S6K)1; the latter exerts negative feedback control on insulin signaling, which is impaired in Alzheimer's disease. Our previous study found that α-Syn overexpression can inhibit protein phosphatase (PP)2A activity, which is involved in the protective mechanism of insulin signaling. In this study, we found an increase in IRS-1 phosphorylation at Ser636 and decrease in tyrosine phosphorylation, which accelerated IRS-1 turnover and reduced insulin-Akt signaling in α-Syn-overexpressing SK-N-SH cells and transgenic mice. The mTOR complex (C)1/S6K1 blocker rapamycin inhibited the phosphorylation of IRS-1 at Ser636 in cells overexpressing α-Syn, suggesting that mTORC1/S6K1 activation by α-Syn causes feedback inhibition of insulin signaling via suppression of IRS-1 function. α-Syn overexpression also inhibited PP2A activity, while the PP2A agonist C2 ceramide suppressed both S6K1 activation and IRS-1 Ser636 phosphorylation upon α-Syn overexpression. Thus, α-Syn overexpression negatively regulated IRS-1 via mTORC1/S6K1 signaling while activation of PP2A reverses this process. These results provide evidence for a link between α-Syn and IRS-1 that may represent a novel mechanism for α-Syn-associated pathogenesis.

Keywords: Alpha-synuclein (α-Syn); Insulin receptor substrate 1 (IRS-1); Mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1); Protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A); p70 Ribosomal S6 kinase 1 (S6K1).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Insulin Receptor Substrate Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1
  • Mice, Inbred C3H
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Multiprotein Complexes / metabolism*
  • Protein Phosphatase 2 / metabolism
  • Protein Stability
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Ribosomal Protein S6 Kinases, 70-kDa / metabolism*
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*
  • alpha-Synuclein / genetics
  • alpha-Synuclein / metabolism*


  • IRS1 protein, human
  • Insulin Receptor Substrate Proteins
  • Multiprotein Complexes
  • alpha-Synuclein
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Ribosomal Protein S6 Kinases, 70-kDa
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • ribosomal protein S6 kinase, 70kD, polypeptide 1
  • Protein Phosphatase 2