Monomeric Synucleins Generate Membrane Curvature
Synucleins are a family of presynaptic membrane binding proteins. α-Synuclein, the principal member of this family, is mutated in familial Parkinson disease. To gain insight into the molecular functions of synucleins, we performed an unbiased proteomic screen and identified synaptic protein changes in αβγ-synuclein knock-out brains. We observed increases in the levels of select membrane curvature sensing/generating proteins. One of the most prominent changes was for the N-BAR protein endophilin A1. Here we demonstrate that the levels of synucleins and endophilin A1 are reciprocally regulated and that they are functionally related. We show that all synucleins can robustly generate membrane curvature similar to endophilins. However, only monomeric but not tetrameric α-synuclein can bend membranes. Further, A30P α-synuclein, a Parkinson disease mutant that disrupts protein folding, is also deficient in this activity. This suggests that synucleins generate membrane curvature through the asymmetric insertion of their N-terminal amphipathic helix. Based on our findings, we propose to include synucleins in the class of amphipathic helix-containing proteins that sense and generate membrane curvature. These results advance our understanding of the physiological function of synucleins.