Aggresomes Formed by α-Synuclein and Synphilin-1 Are Cytoprotective

Mikiei Tanaka, Yong Man Kim, Gwang Lee, Eunsung Junn, Takeshi Iwatsubo, M. Maral Mouradian

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326 Scopus citations


Lewy bodies (LBs), which are the hallmark pathologic features of Parkinson's disease and of dementia with LBs, have several morphologic and molecular similarities to aggresomes. Whether such cytoplasmic inclusions contribute to neuronal death or protect cells from the toxic effects of misfolded proteins remains controversial. In this report, the role of aggresomes in cell viability was addressed in the context of over-expressing α-synuclein and its interacting partner synphilin-1 using engineered 293T cells. Inhibition of proteasome activity elicited the formation of juxtanuclear aggregates with characteristics of aggresomes including immunoreactivity for vimentin, γ-tubulin, ubiquitin, proteasome subunit, and hsp70. As expected from the properties of aggresomes, the microtubule disrupting agents, vinblastin and nocodazole, markedly prevented the formation of these inclusions. Similar to LBs, the phosphorylated form of α-synuclein co-localized in these synphilin-1-containing aggresomes. Although the caspase inhibitor z-VAD-fmk significantly reduced the number of apoptotic cells, it had no impact on the percentage of aggresome-positive cells. Finally, quantitative analysis revealed aggresomes in 60% of non-apoptotic cells but only in 10% of apoptotic cells. Additionally, α-synuclein-induced apoptosis was not coupled with increased prevalence of aggresome-bearing cells. Taken together, these observations indicate a disconnection between aggresome formation and apoptosis, and support a protective role for these inclusions from the toxicity associated with the combined over-expression of α-synuclein and synphilin-1.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4625-4631
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 6 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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