Tryptophan fluorescence reveals structural features of alpha-synuclein oligomers

Bart D van Rooijen, K A van Leijenhorst-Groener, Mireille M A E Claessens, V Subramaniam

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    Oligomeric alpha-synuclein (alphaS) is considered to be the potential toxic species responsible for the onset and progression of Parkinson's disease, possibly through the disruption of lipid membranes. Although there is evidence that oligomers contain considerable amounts of secondary structure, more detailed data on the structural characteristics and how these mediate oligomer-lipid binding are critically lacking. This report is, to our knowledge, the first study that aimed to address the structure of oligomeric alphaS on a more detailed level. We have used tryptophan (Trp) fluorescence spectroscopy to gain insight into the structural features of oligomeric alphaS and the structural basis for oligomer-lipid interactions. Several single Trp mutants of alphaS were used to gain site-specific information about the microenvironments of monomeric alphaS, oligomeric alphaS and lipid-bound oligomeric alphaS. Acrylamide quenching and spectral analyses indicate that the Trp residues are considerably more solvent protected in the oligomeric form compared with the monomeric protein. In the oligomers, the negatively charged C-terminus was the most solvent exposed part of the protein. Upon lipid binding, a blue shift in fluorescence was observed for alphaS mutants where the Trp is located within the N-terminal region. These results suggest that, as in the case of monomeric alphaS, the N-terminus is critical in determining oligomer-lipid binding.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)826-33
    Number of pages8
    JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2009


    • Amino Acid Substitution
    • Fluorescence
    • Lipid Metabolism
    • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
    • Protein Binding
    • Protein Multimerization
    • Protein Structure, Quaternary
    • Protein Structure, Secondary
    • Protein Structure, Tertiary
    • Spectrum Analysis
    • Tryptophan
    • alpha-Synuclein
    • Journal Article
    • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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