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Parkinson's protein comes in fours

Better understanding of structure could guide treatment

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4:35pm, August 15, 2011

Stabilizing the ties that bind a protein important in Parkinson’s disease to its buddies might help fend off the disease, a new study of the protein’s structure suggests.

Alpha-synuclein builds up in tough aggregates in the brains of patients with Parkinson’s disease. Researchers thought that this protein was normally a floppy, snakelike molecule.

But now, neuroscientist and neurologist Dennis Selkoe of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School and his colleagues show that alpha-synuclein normally forms bands of four molecules in living cells. These quartets (scientists call them tetramers) of alpha-synuclein molecules resist the clumping that leads single molecules of the protein down the path to brain cell destruction, Selkoe and colleagues report online August 14 in Nature.

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