α-Synuclein is a neuronal protein that is at the center of focus in understanding the etiology of a group of neurodegenerative diseases called α-synucleinopathies, which includes Parkinson’s disease (PD). Despite much research, the exact physiological function of α-synuclein is still unclear. α-Synuclein has similar biophysical properties as apolipoproteins and other lipid-binding proteins and has a high affinity for cholesterol. These properties suggest a possible role for α-synuclein as a lipid acceptor mediating cholesterol efflux (the process of removing cholesterol out of cells). To test this concept, we “loaded” SK-N-SH neuronal cells with fluorescently-labelled cholesterol, applied exogenous α-synuclein, and measured the amount of cholesterol removed from the cells using a classic cholesterol efflux assay. We found that α-synuclein potently stimulated cholesterol efflux. We found that the process was dose and time dependent, and was saturable at 1.0 µg/mL of α-synuclein. It was also dependent on the transporter protein ABCA1 located on the plasma membrane. We reveal for the first time a novel role of α-synuclein that underscores its importance in neuronal cholesterol regulation, and identify novel therapeutic targets for controlling cellular cholesterol levels.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited