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Parkinson's protein comes in fours

Better understanding of structure could guide treatment

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.

Discovering that alpha-synuclein works in groups of four could be important in treating or preventing Parkinson’s disease, says

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