Original Article

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Observation of an α-synuclein liquid droplet state and its maturation into Lewy body-like assemblies Free
Maarten C. Hardenberg1 , Tessa Sinnige1,5 , Sam Casford1 , Samuel T. Dada1 , Chetan Poudel2 , Elizabeth A. Robinson1 , Monika Fuxreiter3 , Clemens F. Kaminksi2 , Gabriele S. Kaminski Schierle2 , Ellen A. A. Nollen4 , Christopher M. Dobson1 , Michele Vendruscolo1,*
1Centre for Misfolding Diseases, Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 1EW, UK
2Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB3 0AS, UK
3MTA-DE Laboratory of Protein Dynamics, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Debrecen, Hungary
4European Research Institute for the Biology of Aging, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen 9713 AV, The Netherlands
5Present address: Bijvoet Centre for Biomolecular Research, Department of Chemistry, Utrecht University, Utrecht 3584 CH, The Netherlands
*Correspondence to:Michele Vendruscolo , Email:mv245@cam.ac.uk
J Mol Cell Biol, Volume 13, Issue 4, April 2021, 282-294,  https://doi.org/10.1093/jmcb/mjaa075
Keyword: α-synuclein, liquid‒liquid phase separation, Parkinson's disease

Misfolded α-synuclein is a major component of Lewy bodies, which are a hallmark of Parkinson’s disease (PD). A large body of evidence shows that α-synuclein can aggregate into amyloid fibrils, but the relationship between α-synuclein self-assembly and Lewy body formation remains unclear. Here, we show, both in vitro and in a Caenorhabditis elegans model of PD, that α-synuclein undergoes liquid‒liquid phase separation by forming a liquid droplet state, which converts into an amyloid-rich hydrogel with Lewy-body-like properties. This maturation process towards the amyloid state is delayed in the presence of model synaptic vesicles in vitro. Taken together, these results suggest that the formation of Lewy bodies may be linked to the arrested maturation of α-synuclein condensates in the presence of lipids and other cellular components.