Polyunsaturated fatty acids induce α-synuclein-related pathogenic changes in neuronal cells

Karen Assayag, Evgenia Yakunin, Virginie Loeb, Dennis J. Selkoe, Ronit Sharon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


The misfolding and aggregation of normally soluble proteins has emerged as a key feature of several neurodegenerative diseases. In Parkinson's disease, progressive loss of dopaminergic neurons is accompanied by polymerization of the cytoplasmic protein α-synuclein (αS) into filamentous inclusions found in neuronal somata (Lewy bodies) and dendrites (Lewy neurites). Similar αS aggregates occur in cortical neurons in dementia with Lewy bodies. Numerous reports now indicate that αS can interact with lipids. We previously found that treating dopaminergic cells expressing αS with polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) induced the formation of soluble, sodium dodecyl sulfate-stable oligomers whereas treatment with saturated fatty acids did not. Here, we examine the relevance of αS-PUFA interactions to the development of Parkinson's disease-like cytopathology. Exposure of αS-overexpressing dopaminergic or neuronal cell lines to physiological levels of a PUFA induced the formation of proteinaceous inclusions in the cytoplasm. Kinetic experiments indicated that PUFA-induced soluble oligomers of αS precede these Lewy-like inclusions. Importantly, we found that αS oligomers were associated with cytotoxicity, whereas the development of Lewy-like inclusions appeared to be protective. We conclude that alterations in PUFA levels can lead to aggregation of αS and subsequent deposition into potentially cytotoxic oligomers that precede inclusions in dopaminergic cells.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2000-2011
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Pathology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Supported by the National Institutes of Health (grant R01 NS051318 ).


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