The Dynamic Structure of α-Synuclein Multimers
α-Synuclein, a protein that forms ordered aggregates in the brains of patients with Parkinson?s disease, is intrinsically disordered in the monomeric state. Several studies, however, suggest that it can form soluble multimers in vivo that have significant secondary structure content. A number of studies demonstrate that α-synuclein can form ?-strand-rich oligomers that are neurotoxic, and recent observations argue for the existence of soluble helical tetrameric species in cellulo that do not form toxic aggregates. To gain further insight into the different types of multimeric states that this protein can adopt, we generated an ensemble for an α-synuclein construct that contains a 10-residue N-terminal extension, which forms multimers when isolated from Escherichia coli. Data from NMR chemical shifts and residual dipolar couplings were used to guide the construction of the ensemble. Our data suggest that the dominant state of this ensemble is a disordered monomer, complemented by a small fraction of helical trimers and tetramers. Interestingly, the ensemble also contains trimeric and tetrameric oligomers that are rich in ?-strand content. These data help to reconcile seemingly contradictory observations that indicate the presence of a helical tetramer in cellulo on the one hand, and a disordered monomer on the other. Furthermore, our findings are consistent with the notion that the helical tetrameric state provides a mechanism for storing α-synuclein when the protein concentration is high, thereby preventing non-membrane-bound monomers from aggregating.