Several neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Lewy body disease, are characterized by abnormal neuronal inclusions of α-synuclein, one of the brain's synaptic proteins. Suspicion that this protein might be pathogenic was strengthened when a mutation in the α-synuclein gene was linked to an inherited form of Parkinsonism. In tomorrow's Science, Masliah et al. report that transgenic mice expressing human α-synuclein developed neuronal inclusions in the same brain regions affected by human Lewy bodies and also lost dopamine nerve terminals. These mice showed declines in motor performance along with the pathologic changes, supporting the theory that α-synuclein aggregations are related to loss of motor function in Parkinson's patients.—Hakon Heimer

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  1. . Dopaminergic loss and inclusion body formation in alpha-synuclein mice: implications for neurodegenerative disorders. Science. 2000 Feb 18;287(5456):1265-9. PubMed.