The synucleins: a family of proteins involved in synaptic function, plasticity, neurodegeneration and disease

Trends Neurosci. 1998 Jun;21(6):249-54. doi: 10.1016/s0166-2236(97)01213-7.


Synuclein proteins are produced, in vertebrates, by three genes. They share structural resemblance to apolipoproteins, but are abundant in the neuronal cytosol and present in enriched amounts at presynaptic terminals. Synucleins have been specifically implicated in three diseases:Alzheimer's (AD), Parkinson's (PD) and breast cancer. In AD, a peptide derived from alpha-synuclein forms an intrinsic component of plaque amyloid. In PD, an alpha-synuclein allele is genetically linked to several independent familial cases, and the protein appears to accumulate in Lewy bodies. In breast cancer, increased expression of gamma-synuclein correlates with disease progression. In songbirds, alpha-synuclein expression is correlated with plasticity in the developing song control system. Although the normal function of synucleins is unknown, a role in membrane plasticity seems likely.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nerve Degeneration / metabolism*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Nervous System Diseases / metabolism*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Synapses / chemistry
  • Synapses / metabolism*
  • Synucleins
  • alpha-Synuclein
  • gamma-Synuclein


  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • SNCA protein, human
  • Synucleins
  • alpha-Synuclein
  • gamma-Synuclein