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Protein kinase R dependent phosphorylation of α-synuclein regulates its membrane binding and aggregation.

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Reimer, Lasse 
Gram, Hjalte 
Jensen, Nanna Møller  ORCID logo
Betzer, Cristine 
Yang, Li 


Aggregated α-synuclein (α-syn) accumulates in the neuronal Lewy body (LB) inclusions in Parkinson's disease (PD) and LB dementia. Yet, under nonpathological conditions, monomeric α-syn is hypothesized to exist in an equilibrium between disordered cytosolic- and partially α-helical lipid-bound states: a feature presumably important in synaptic vesicle release machinery. The exact underlying role of α-syn in these processes, and the mechanisms regulating membrane-binding of α-syn remains poorly understood. Herein we demonstrate that Protein kinase R (PKR) can phosphorylate α-syn at several Ser/Thr residues located in the membrane-binding region that is essential for α-syn's vesicle-interactions. α-Syn phosphorylated by PKR or α-syn isolated from PKR overexpressing cells, exhibit decreased binding to lipid membranes. Phosphorylation of Thr64 and Thr72 appears as the major contributor to this effect, as the phosphomimetic Thr64Glu/Thr72Glu-α-syn mutant displays reduced overall attachment to brain vesicles due to a decrease in vesicle-affinity of the last two thirds of α-syn's membrane binding region. This allows enhancement of the "double-anchor" vesicle-binding mechanism that tethers two vesicles and thus promote the clustering of presynaptic vesicles in vitro. Furthermore, phosphomimetic Thr64Glu/Thr72Glu-α-syn inhibits α-syn oligomerization and completely abolishes nucleation, elongation, and seeding of α-syn fibrillation in vitro and in cells, and prevents trans-synaptic spreading of aggregated α-syn pathology in organotypic hippocampal slice cultures. Overall, our findings demonstrate that normal and abnormal functions of α-syn, like membrane-binding, synaptic vesicle clustering and aggregation can be regulated by phosphorylation, e.g., via PKR. Mechanisms that could potentially be modulated for the benefit of patients suffering from α-syn aggregate-related diseases.



3101 Biochemistry and Cell Biology, 31 Biological Sciences, Dementia, Neurosciences, Neurodegenerative, Acquired Cognitive Impairment, Parkinson's Disease, Brain Disorders, 1 Underpinning research, 1.1 Normal biological development and functioning, 2.1 Biological and endogenous factors, 2 Aetiology, Neurological

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PNAS Nexus

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Oxford University Press (OUP)