Pα-syn* mitotoxicity is linked to MAPK activation and involves tau phosphorylation and aggregation at the mitochondria

Academic Article


  • We recently identified a truncated and phosphorylated form of α-synuclein, pα-syn* as a key neurotoxic α-synuclein species found in cultured neurons, as well as in mouse and Parkinson's disease patients’ brains. Small pα-syn* aggregates localize to mitochondria and induce mitochondrial damage and fragmentation. Herein, we investigated the molecular basis of pα-syn*-induced toxicity. By immunofluorescence, we found phosphorylated MKK4, JNK, ERK5 and p38 MAPKs in pα-syn* inclusions. pJNK colocalized with pα-syn* at mitochondria and mitochondria-associated ER membranes where it was associated with BiP and pACC1, markers for the ER and energy deprivation, respectively. We also found that pα-syn* aggregates are tightly associated with small ptau aggregates of similar size. Pα-syn*/ptau inclusions localized to areas of mitochondrial damage and to mitophagic vesicles, showing their role in mitochondrial toxicity, mitophagy induction and their removal along with damaged mitochondrial fragments. Several MAPKs may act cooperatively to phosphorylate tau, notably JNK, p38 and GSK3β a non-MAPK that was also found phosphorylated in the vicinity of pα-syn*/ptau aggregates. These results add insight into the mechanisms by which pα-syn* exerts its toxic effects that include the phosphorylation of several kinases of the MAPK pathway, as well as the formation of ptau at the mitochondrial membrane, likely contributing to mitotoxicity. Thus pα-syn* appears to be the trigger of a series of kinase mediated pathogenic events and a link between α-syn pathology and tau, another protein known to aggregate in Parkinson's disease and other synucleinopathies.
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    Author List

  • Grassi D; Diaz-Perez N; Volpicelli-Daley LA; Lasmézas CI
  • Start Page

  • 248
  • End Page

  • 262
  • Volume

  • 124