Alpha-synuclein has a high affinity for packing defects in a bilayer membrane: a thermodynamics study.
A number of neurodegenerative disorders, including Parkinson's disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, and multiple system atrophy, are characterized by the intracellular deposition of fibrillar aggregates that contain a high proportion of alpha-synuclein (alphaS). The interaction with the membrane-water interface strongly modulates folding and aggregation of the protein. The present study investigates the lipid binding and the coil-helix transition of alphaS, using titration calorimetry, differential scanning calorimetry, and circular dichroism spectroscopy. Titration of the protein with small unilamellar vesicles composed of zwitterionic phospholipids below the chain melting temperature of the lipids yielded exceptionally large exothermic heat values. The sigmoidal titration curves were evaluated in terms of a simple model that assumes saturable binding sites at the vesicle surface. The cumulative heat release and the ellipticity were linearly correlated as a result of simultaneous binding and helix folding. There was no heat release and folding of alphaS in the presence of large unilamellar vesicles, indicating that a small radius of curvature is necessary for the alphaS-membrane interaction. The heat release and the negative heat capacity of the protein-vesicle interaction could not be attributed to the coil-helix transition of the protein alone. We speculate that binding and helix folding of alphaS depends on the presence of defect structures in the membrane-water interface, which in turn results in lipid ordering in the highly curved vesicular membranes. This will be discussed with regard to a possible role of the protein for the stabilization of synaptic vesicle membranes.