23 August 2004
Tangled strands of proteins called amyloid are found in the brain tissues of patients with a variety of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. One such protein is tau, now known to participate in tangle formation in Alzheimer's patients. Another is alpha-synuclein, whose mutations cause Parkinson's disease and dementia with Lewy bodies. In a paper published in the current issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, researchers from the Tokyo Institute of Psychiatry, the Tokyo Metropolitan University, and RIKEN Harima Institute show that alpha-synuclein can also enhance microtubule formation, similar to tau.
Alpha-Synuclein was originally found in Alzheimer's disease brains by Kenji Ueda et al. Microtubules are cytoskeletal polymers essential for axonal transport and neuronal function. Writing in the article, Kenji Ueda, Ph.D., states, "Now we can see a striking resemblance between alpha-synuclein and tau: both have the same physiological function and pathological features, making abnormal structures in diseased brains known as synucleinopathies and tauopathies. The discovery of a physiological role for alpha-synuclein may provide a new dimension in researches into the mechanisms of alpha-synuclein-associated neurodegenerative diseases."
"These novel and important findings offer a new window to explore the normal physiology of these diseases" stated George Perry, editor-in-chief, JAD.
The article is "Demonstration of a role for alpha-synuclein as a functional microtubule-associated protein" by M. Abdul Alim, Qiu-Lan Ma, Kazuya Takeda, Takako Aizawa, Mamoru Matsubara, Minako Nakamura, Akiko Asada, Taro Saito, Hiroyuki Kaji, Mitsunobu Yoshii, Shinichi Hisanaga and Kenji Ueda. It appears in Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, Vol. 6, Number 4 published by IOS Press.