Proper protein folding is critical to protein function. α-synuclein is a protein that is found in the brain and normally adopts an α-helical conformation.
However, under certain conditions, the protein can undergo a conformational transition to a β-sheet–rich structure that polymerizes to form toxic oligomers and amyloid plaque. Misfolding of this protein is associated with Parkinson's disease.
Some scientists hypothesize that α-synuclein can act like a prion under certain conditions. It can be transferred between
and acts as a
to cause other normal proteins to become
These proteins become very toxic to the cells. Another prion disease is