Mutant and wild type human alpha-synucleins assemble into elongated filaments with distinct morphologies in vitro.
alpha-Synuclein is a soluble presynaptic protein which is pathologically redistributed within intracellular lesions characteristic of several neurodegenerative diseases. Here we demonstrate that wild type and two mutant forms of alpha-synuclein linked to familial Parkinson's disease (Ala30 --> Pro and Ala53 --> Thr) self-aggregate and assemble into 10-19-nm-wide filaments with distinct morphologies under defined in vitro conditions. Immunogold labeling demonstrates that the central region of all these filaments are more robustly labeled than the N-terminal or C-terminal regions, suggesting that the latter regions are buried within the filaments. Since in vitro generated alpha-synuclein filaments resemble the major ultrastructural elements of authentic Lewy bodies that are hallmark lesions of Parkinson's disease, we propose that self-aggregating alpha-synuclein is the major subunit protein of these filamentous lesions.