The Role of Alpha Synuclein in Parkinson’s disease

  • Dima Moualla

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Parkinson’s disease (PD) is one of the most common neurodegenerative diseases. It is characterized by the presence of intracellular inclusions termed Lewy bodies (LBs) and Lewy neuritis (LNs) in the brain, in which α-Syn aggregates constitute the main component. Therefore, α-Syn aggregation was implicated in the pathogenesis of PD. Structurally α-Syn is a disordered protein with little ordered structure under physiological conditions. However, research of α-Syn has provided substantial information about its structural properties. The precise function of α-Syn is still under investigation. Research has also shown that metals, such as copper and iron, accelerate α-Syn aggregation and fibrillation in vitro and are proposed to play an important role in vitro. In this study, isothermal titration calorimetry was used to determine iron binding properties to α-Syn revealing the presence of two binding sites for iron with an affinity of 1.06 x 105 M-1 and a dissociation constant of ~ 10μM which is physiologically relevant to iron content in the brain. In addition, α-Syn was found to reduce iron in the presence of copper. This property was demonstrated via ferrozine based assay. In vitro, thoflavin-T fluorescence assay was used to investigate the mechanism by which metals induce α-Syn aggregation and whether it is related to metal binding. Metals, mainly copper and iron, caused 2-fold increase in the aggregation rate of WT α-Syn and its metal binding mutants. Linking that to the increased metal content in the brain, α-Syn aggregation can cause changes in tissue composition, thus altering the normal functional environment in the brain. Moreover, western blotting analysis showed that copper increases the aggregate formation in mammalian dopaminergic cells over-expressing α-Syn.
Date of Award1 Dec 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorDavid Brown (Supervisor)


  • alpha synuclein
  • Parkinson's disease
  • neurodegenerative diseases

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