Since the discovery that mutations of alpha-synuclein (AS) gene are responsible for rare forms of familiar Parkinsons disease this synaptic protein attracted increased interest. AS is the main constituent of Lewy bodies. In spite the physiological function is still unclear there is an ongoing discussion if over-expression is already dangerous, or if toxicity is subjected to oligomers, protofibrilles or mature aggregates. The fact that the central hydrophobic part of AS is a constituent of amyloid plaques in Alzheimer patients and the finding that a majority of AD patients have Lewy bodies and Lewy neurites in specific brain areas, raised our interest in the possible contribution of AS to pathogenesis of AD. Betasynuclein (ßS) a protein of the same gene family seems to be a naturally occurring anti aggregatory factor preventing AS aggregation in vitro and in vivo. The N-terminal amino acid sequence 1 to 15 is responsible for this effect. Based on this finding we synthesized a peptide library with different sequence variations. Several of these peptides displayed distinct neuroprotective activity in tissue culture models of neurodegeneration induced by oxidative stress or Aß1-42. In spite these peptides have a short half-life, in vivo significant reduction in brain plaque load and improvement of behavioral deficits was demonstrated in an APP-tg mouse model after intranasal treatment for 2 months. KEGV, the shortest sequence was also active after intraperitoneal application. Neuroprotective data in tissue cultures and results from transgenic mice are some how in conflict because in vitro effects can not be explained by the antiaggregatory potential, but most likely by interaction of ßS derivates with anti-apoptotic PI3/Akt cell signaling or interference with anti-oxidative pathways (JNK/JIB). The possibility that such ßS derived peptidomimetics might act as neuroprotectants and at the same time prevent protein missfolding suggests possible therapeutic usefulness in different neurodegenerative disorders.
Keywords: Alpha-synuclein, Lewy bodies, Alzheimer's disease, protein aggregation, oxidative stress
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