Contrasting effects of α-synuclein and γ-synuclein on the phenotype of cysteine string protein α (CSPα) null mutant mice suggest distinct function of these proteins in neuronal synapses.
Ninkina N., Peters OM., Connor-Robson N., Lytkina O., Sharfeddin E., Buchman VL.
In neuronal synapses, neurotransmitter-loaded vesicles fuse with presynaptic plasma membrane in a complex sequence of tightly regulated events. The assembly of specialized SNARE complexes plays a pivotal role in this process. The function of the chaperone cysteine string protein α (CSPα) is important for synaptic SNARE complex formation, and mice lacking this protein develop severe synaptic dysfunction and neurodegeneration that lead to their death within 3 months after birth. Another presynaptic protein, α-synuclein, also potentiates SNARE complex formation, and its overexpression rescues the phenotype of CSPα null mutant mice, although these two proteins use different mechanisms to achieve this effect. α-Synuclein is a member of a family of three related proteins whose structural similarity suggests functional redundancy. Here, we assessed whether γ-synuclein shares the ability of α-synuclein to bind synaptic vesicles and ameliorate neurodegeneration caused by CSPα deficiency in vivo. Although the N-terminal lipid-binding domains of the two synucleins showed similar affinity for purified synaptic vesicles, the C-terminal domain of γ-synuclein was not able to interact with synaptobrevin-2/VAMP2. Consequently, overexpression of γ-synuclein did not have any noticeable effect on the phenotype of CSPα null mutant mice. Our data suggest that the functions of α- and γ-synucleins in presynaptic terminals are not fully redundant.