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

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  1. . Persyn, a member of the synuclein family, influences neurofilament network integrity. Nat Neurosci. 1998 Jun;1(2):101-3. PubMed.