Synucleins are small cytoplasmic proteins that are found
in synaptic terminals. They are present in senile plaques and Lewy bodies
(features of Alzheimer's disease and familial Parkinson's disease). Synucleins
also bind amyloid peptide (implicated in Alzheimer's disease) and mutations
of this protein are found in families affected with Parkinson's disease.
However, despite these tantalizing correlations, the cellular functions
of synucleins have remained elusive. In the June 1998 issue of Nature Neuroscience,
Vladimir Buchman and colleagues (from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland)
find a functional role for one of these elusive proteins. They find that
persyn, a member of the synuclein family, influences the cytoskeleton of
neurons. When person is overproduced in neurons, neurofilament networks
(a part of the scaffolding holding the cell together) are distorted. Distortions
of the neurofilaments are common in neurodegenerative diseases and also
follow traumatic injury, ischemia and exposure to neurotoxic agents.-June Kinoshita.
Reference:Buchman VL, Adu J, Pinon LG, Ninkina NN, Davies AM. Persyn, a member of the synuclein family, influences neurofilament network integrity. Nat Neurosci 1998 Jun;1(2):101-3. Abstract