Pathological structural conversion of α-synuclein at the mitochondria induces neuronal toxicity

September 12, 2022


Pathological structural conversion of α-synuclein at the mitochondria induces neuronal toxicity


Minee L. Choi, Alexandre Chappard, Bhanu P. Singh, Catherine Maclachlan, Margarida Rodrigues, Evgeniya I. Fedotova, Alexey V. Berezhnov, Suman De, Christopher J. Peddie, Dilan Athauda, Gurvir S. Virdi, Weijia Zhang, James R. Evans, Anna I. Wernick, Zeinab Shadman Zanjani, Plamena R. Angelova, Noemi Esteras, Andrey Y. Vinokurov, Katie Morris, Kiani Jeacock, Laura Tosatto, Daniel Little, Paul Gissen, David J. Clarke, Tilo Kunath, Lucy Collinson, David Klenerman, Andrey Y. Abramov, Mathew H. Horrocks & Sonia Gandhi




Nature Communications


Aggregation of alpha-synuclein (α-Syn) drives Parkinson’s disease (PD), although the initial stages of self-assembly and structural conversion have not been directly observed inside neurons. In this study, we tracked the intracellular conformational states of α-Syn using a single-molecule Förster resonance energy transfer (smFRET) biosensor, and we show here that α-Syn converts from a monomeric state into two distinct oligomeric states in neurons in a concentration-dependent and sequence-specific manner. Three-dimensional FRET-correlative light and electron microscopy (FRET-CLEM) revealed that intracellular seeding events occur preferentially on membrane surfaces, especially at mitochondrial membranes. The mitochondrial lipid cardiolipin triggers rapid oligomerization of A53T α-Syn, and cardiolipin is sequestered within aggregating lipid–protein complexes. Mitochondrial aggregates impair complex I activity and increase mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation, which accelerates the oligomerization of A53T α-Syn and causes permeabilization of mitochondrial membranes and cell death. These processes were also observed in induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)–derived neurons harboring A53T mutations from patients with PD. Our study highlights a mechanism of de novo α-Syn oligomerization at mitochondrial membranes and subsequent neuronal toxicity.




alpha-synuclein, aggregation, FRET, Parkinson's disease