- α-Synuclein (αsyn) is an abundant brain neuronal protein that can misfold and polymerize to form toxic fibrils coalescing into pathologic inclusions in neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson's disease, Lewy body dementia, and multiple system atrophy. These fibrils may induce further αsyn misfolding and propagation of pathologic fibrils in a prion-like process. It is unclear why αsyn initially misfolds, but a growing body of literature suggests a critical role of partial proteolytic processing resulting in various truncations of the highly charged and flexible carboxyl-terminal region.
- tau is a microtubule (MT)-associated protein that promotes tubulin assembly and stabilizes MTs by binding longitudinally along the MT surface. tau can aberrantly aggregate into pathological inclusions that define Alzheimer's disease, frontotemporal dementias, and other tauopathies. A spectrum of missense mutations in the tau-encoding gene microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT) can cause frontotemporal dementias. tau aggregation is postulated to spread by a prion-like mechanism. Using a cell-based inclusion seeding assay, we recently reported that only a few tau variants are intrinsically prone to this type of aggregation.
- α-Synuclein (αsyn) aggregates into toxic fibrils in multiple neurodegenerative diseases where these fibrils form characteristic pathological inclusions such as Lewy bodies (LBs). The mechanisms initiating αsyn aggregation into fibrils are unclear, but ubiquitous post-translational modifications of αsyn present in LBs may play a role. Specific C-terminally (C)-truncated forms of αsyn are present within human pathological inclusions and form under physiological conditions likely in lysosome-associated pathways, but the roles for these C-truncated forms of αsyn in inclusion formation and disease are not well understood.
- The accumulation of aberrantly aggregated MAPT (microtubule-associated protein Tau) defines a spectrum of tauopathies, including Alzheimer's disease. Mutations in the MAPT gene cause frontotemporal dementia with Parkinsonism linked to chromosome 17 (FTDP-17), characterized by neuronal pathological Tau inclusions in the form of neurofibrillary tangles and Pick bodies and in some cases glial Tau pathology. Increasing evidence points to the importance of prion-like seeding as a mechanism for the pathological spread in tauopathy and other neurodegenerative diseases.