Purification of α-Synuclein from Human Brain Reveals an Instability of Endogenous Multimers as the Protein Approaches Purity
Luth, Eric S.
Kim, Nora C.
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CitationLuth, Eric S., Tim Bartels, Ulf Dettmer, Nora C. Kim, and Dennis J. Selkoe. 2014. “Purification of α-Synuclein from Human Brain Reveals an Instability of Endogenous Multimers as the Protein Approaches Purity.” Biochemistry 54 (2): 279-292. doi:10.1021/bi501188a. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/bi501188a.
AbstractDespite two decades of research, the structure–function relationships of endogenous, physiological forms of α-synuclein (αSyn) are not well understood. Most in vitro studies of this Parkinson’s disease-related protein have focused on recombinant αSyn that is unfolded and monomeric, assuming that this represents its state in the normal human brain. Recently, we have provided evidence that αSyn exists in considerable part in neurons, erythrocytes, and other cells as a metastable multimer that principally sizes as a tetramer. In contrast to recombinant αSyn, physiological tetramers purified from human erythrocytes have substantial α-helical content and resist pathological aggregation into β-sheet rich fibers. Here, we report the first method to fully purify soluble αSyn from the most relevant source, human brain. We describe protocols that purify αSyn to homogeneity from nondiseased human cortex using ammonium sulfate precipitation, gel filtration, and ion exchange, hydrophobic interaction, and affinity chromatographies. Cross-linking of the starting material and the partially purified chromatographic fractions revealed abundant αSyn multimers, including apparent tetramers, but these were destabilized in large part to monomers during the final purification step. The method also fully purified the homologue β-synuclein, with a similar outcome. Circular dichroism spectroscopy showed that purified, brain-derived αSyn can display more helical content than the recombinant protein, but this result varied. Collectively, our data suggest that purifying αSyn to homogeneity destabilizes native, α-helix-rich multimers that exist in intact and partially purified brain samples. This finding suggests existence of a stabilizing cofactor (e.g., a small lipid) present inside neurons that is lost during final purification.
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