Cellular and Molecular Biology

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Aberrant Protein Folding: α-Synuclein as a Prion?


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