Wild-Type Monomeric α-Synuclein Can Impair Vesicle Endocytosis and Synaptic Fidelity via Tubulin Polymerization at the Calyx of Held

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α-Synuclein is a presynaptic protein the function of which has yet to be identified, but its neuronal content increases in patients of synucleinopathies including Parkinson's disease. Chronic overexpression of α-synuclein reportedly expresses various phenotypes of synaptic dysfunction, but the primary target of its toxicity has not been determined. To investigate this, we acutely loaded human recombinant α-synuclein or its pathological mutants in their monomeric forms into the calyces of Held presynaptic terminals in slices from auditorily mature and immature rats of either sex. Membrane capacitance measurements revealed significant and specific inhibitory effects of WT monomeric α-synuclein on vesicle endocytosis throughout development. However, the α-synuclein A53T mutant affected vesicle endocytosis only at immature calyces, whereas the A30P mutant had no effect throughout. The endocytic impairment by WT α-synuclein was rescued by intraterminal coloading of the microtubule (MT) polymerization blocker nocodazole. Furthermore, it was reversibly rescued by presynaptically loaded photostatin-1, a photoswitcheable inhibitor of MT polymerization, in a light-wavelength-dependent manner. In contrast, endocytic inhibition by the A53T mutant at immature calyces was not rescued by nocodazole. Functionally, presynaptically loaded WT α-synuclein had no effect on basal synaptic transmission evoked at a low frequency, but significantly attenuated exocytosis and impaired the fidelity of neurotransmission during prolonged high-frequency stimulation. We conclude that monomeric WT α-synuclein primarily inhibits vesicle endocytosis via MT overassembly, thereby impairing high-frequency neurotransmission.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Abnormal α-synuclein abundance is associated with synucleinopathies including Parkinson's disease, but neither the primary target of α-synuclein toxicity nor its mechanism is identified. Here, we loaded monomeric α-synuclein directly into mammalian glutamatergic nerve terminals and found that it primarily inhibits vesicle endocytosis and subsequently impairs exocytosis and neurotransmission fidelity during prolonged high-frequency stimulation. Such α-synuclein toxicity could be rescued by blocking microtubule polymerization, suggesting that microtubule overassembly underlies the toxicity of acutely elevated α-synuclein in the nerve terminal.


  • The Journal of Neuroscience

    The Journal of Neuroscience 37(25), 6043-6052, 2017-06-21

    Society for Neuroscience


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