Extracellular alpha-synuclein: Sensors, receptors, and responses


Domingues R, Sant’Anna R, da Fonseca ACC, Robbs BK, Foguel D, Outeiro TF


Neurobiology of Disease


Neurobiol Dis. 2022 Jun 15;168:105696.


Synucleinopathies are a group of progressive neurodegenerative diseases known for the accumulation of insoluble aggregates containing the protein alpha-synuclein (aSyn). Recently, it has been assumed that pathology spreads in the brain during disease progression, implying that, at some point in the process, aSyn may exist outside of cells. In this context, extracellular-aSyn (e-aSyn) might transduce signals to the inside of the cells it interacts with, and/or be internalized by different types of cells through the extracellular matrix. Both negatively charged lipids and membrane receptors have been hypothesized as modulators of the loss of cellular homeostasis and cytotoxicity, and of the internalization of e-aSyn. Internalized e-aSyn causes the disruption of multiple cellular processes such as the autophagy lysosomal pathway (ALP), mitochondrial function, endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-stress, UPR activation, or vesicular transport. These processes happen not only in neurons but also in glial cells, activating inflammatory or anti-inflammatory pathways that can affect both neuronal function and survival, thereby affecting disease progression. In this review, we explore possible effects e-aSyn, all the way from the extracellular matrix to the nucleus. In particular, we highlight the glial-neuronal relationship as this is particularly relevant in the context of the spreading of aSyn pathology in synucleinopathies.


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