Structures of α-synuclein filaments from human brains with Lewy pathology

Nature. 2022 Oct;610(7933):791-795. doi: 10.1038/s41586-022-05319-3. Epub 2022 Sep 15.


Parkinson's disease (PD) is the most common movement disorder, with resting tremor, rigidity, bradykinesia and postural instability being major symptoms1. Neuropathologically, it is characterized by the presence of abundant filamentous inclusions of α-synuclein in the form of Lewy bodies and Lewy neurites in some brain cells, including dopaminergic nerve cells of the substantia nigra2. PD is increasingly recognised as a multisystem disorder, with cognitive decline being one of its most common non-motor symptoms. Many patients with PD develop dementia more than 10 years after diagnosis3. PD dementia (PDD) is clinically and neuropathologically similar to dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), which is diagnosed when cognitive impairment precedes parkinsonian motor signs or begins within one year from their onset4. In PDD, cognitive impairment develops in the setting of well-established PD. Besides PD and DLB, multiple system atrophy (MSA) is the third major synucleinopathy5. It is characterized by the presence of abundant filamentous α-synuclein inclusions in brain cells, especially oligodendrocytes (Papp-Lantos bodies). We previously reported the electron cryo-microscopy structures of two types of α-synuclein filament extracted from the brains of individuals with MSA6. Each filament type is made of two different protofilaments. Here we report that the cryo-electron microscopy structures of α-synuclein filaments from the brains of individuals with PD, PDD and DLB are made of a single protofilament (Lewy fold) that is markedly different from the protofilaments of MSA. These findings establish the existence of distinct molecular conformers of assembled α-synuclein in neurodegenerative disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Chemistry*
  • Brain* / metabolism
  • Brain* / pathology
  • Brain* / ultrastructure
  • Cryoelectron Microscopy*
  • Dementia / complications
  • Dementia / pathology
  • Humans
  • Lewy Body Disease* / pathology
  • Parkinson Disease / complications
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology
  • alpha-Synuclein* / chemistry
  • alpha-Synuclein* / metabolism
  • alpha-Synuclein* / ultrastructure


  • alpha-Synuclein