Synucleins are a vertebrate-specific family of abundant neuronal proteins. They comprise three closely related members, α-, β-, and γ-synuclein. α-Synuclein has been the focus of intense attention since mutations in it were identified as a cause for familial Parkinson's disease. Despite their disease relevance, the normal physiological function of synucleins has remained elusive. To address this, we generated and characterized αβγ-synuclein knockout mice, which lack all members of this protein family. Deletion of synucleins causes alterations in synaptic structure and transmission, age-dependent neuronal dysfunction, as well as diminished survival. Abrogation of synuclein expression decreased excitatory synapse size by ∼30% both in vivo and in vitro, revealing that synucleins are important determinants of presynaptic terminal size. Young synuclein null mice show improved basic transmission, whereas older mice show a pronounced decrement. The late onset phenotypes in synuclein null mice were not due to a loss of synapses or neurons but rather reflect specific changes in synaptic protein composition and axonal structure. Our results demonstrate that synucleins contribute importantly to the long-term operation of the nervous system and that alterations in their physiological function could contribute to the development of Parkinson's disease.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - Nov 9 2010|
- Lewy bodies
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