The novel Parkinson's disease linked mutation G51D attenuates in vitro aggregation and membrane binding of alpha-synuclein, and enhances its secretion and nuclear localization in cells
A novel mutation in the alpha-Synuclein (alpha-Syn) gene "G51D" was recently identified in two familial cases exhibiting features of Parkinson's disease (PD) and multiple system atrophy (MSA). In this study, we explored the impact of this novel mutation on the aggregation, cellular and biophysical properties of alpha-Syn, in an attempt to unravel how this mutant contributes to PD/MSA. Our results show that the G51D mutation significantly attenuates alpha-Syn aggregation in vitro. Moreover, it disrupts local helix formation in the presence of SDS, decreases binding to lipid vesicles C-terminal to the site of mutation and severely inhibits helical folding in the presence of acidic vesicles. When expressed in yeast, alpha-Syn(G51D) behaves similarly to alpha-Syn(A30P), as both exhibit impaired membrane association, form few inclusions and are non-toxic. In contrast, enhanced secreted and nuclear levels of the G51D mutant were observed in mammalian cells, as well as in primary neurons, where alpha-Syn(G51D) was enriched in the nuclear compartment, was hyper-phosphorylated at S129 and exacerbated alpha-Syn-induced mitochondrial fragmentation. Finally, post-mortem human brain tissues of alpha-Syn(G51D) cases were examined, and revealed only partial colocalization with nuclear membrane markers, probably due to post-mortem tissue delay and fixation. These findings suggest that the PD-linked mutations may cause neurodegeneration via different mechanisms, some of which may be independent of alpha-Syn aggregation.