Alpha-synuclein (α-Syn) is a 140 aa presynaptic protein which belongs to a group of natively unfolded proteins that are unstructured in aqueous solutions. The aggregation rate of α-Syn is accelerated in the presence of physiological levels of cellular polyamines. Here we applied single molecule AFM force spectroscopy to characterize the effect of spermidine on the very first stages of α-Syn aggregation - misfolding and assembly into dimers. Two α-Syn variants, the wild-type (WT) protein and A30P, were studied. The two protein molecules were covalently immobilized at the C-terminus, one at the AFM tip and the other on the substrate, and intermolecular interactions between the two molecules were measured by multiple approach-retraction cycles. At conditions close to physiological ones at which α-Syn misfolding is a rare event, the addition of spermidine leads to a dramatic increase in the propensity of the WT and mutant proteins to misfold. Importantly, misfolding is characterized by a set of conformations, and A30P changes the misfolding pattern as well as the strength of the intermolecular interactions. Together with the fact that spermidine facilitates late stages of α-Syn aggregation, our data demonstrate that spermidine promotes the very early stages of protein aggregation including α-Syn misfolding and dimerization. This finding suggests that increased levels of spermidine and potentially other polyamines can initiate the disease-related process of α-Syn.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)