The Pathological G51D Mutation in Alpha-Synuclein Oligomers Confers Distinct Structural Attributes and Cellular Toxicity.


A wide variety of oligomeric structures are formed during the aggregation of proteins associated with neurodegenerative diseases. Such soluble oligomers are believed to be key toxic species in the related disorders; therefore, identification of the structural determinants of toxicity is of upmost importance. Here, we analysed toxic oligomers of α-synuclein and its pathological variants in order to identify structural features that could be related to toxicity and found a novel structural polymorphism within G51D oligomers. These G51D oligomers can adopt a variety of β-sheet-rich structures with differing degrees of α-helical content, and the helical structural content of these oligomers correlates with the level of induced cellular dysfunction in SH-SY5Y cells. This structure–function relationship observed in α-synuclein oligomers thus presents the α-helical structure as another potential structural determinant that may be linked with cellular toxicity in amyloid-related proteins.