An intact membrane is essential for small extracellular vesicle-induced modulation of α-synuclein fibrillization

Ugalde, Cathryn L ORCID: 0000-0001-8663-6437, Gordon, Shane E ORCID: 0000-0003-3964-8317, Shambrook, Mitch, Nasiri Kenari, Amirmohammad, Coleman, Bradley M, Perugini, Matthew A ORCID: 0000-0001-8052-5584, Lawson, Victoria A ORCID: 0000-0002-7362-7176, Finkelstein, David I ORCID: 0000-0002-8167-4917 and Hill, Andrew F ORCID: 0000-0001-5581-2354 (2020) An intact membrane is essential for small extracellular vesicle-induced modulation of α-synuclein fibrillization. Journal of Extracellular Vesicles, 10 (2). ISSN 2001-3078


The misfolding and fibrillization of the protein, α-synuclein (αsyn), is associated with neurodegenerative disorders referred to as the synucleinopathies. Understanding the mechanisms of αsyn misfolding is an important area of interest given that αsyn misfolding contributes to disease pathogenesis. While many studies report the ability of synthetic lipid membranes to modulate αsyn folding, there is little data pertaining to the mechanism(s) of this interaction. αSyn has previously been shown to associate with small lipid vesicles released by cells called extracellular vesicles (EVs) and it is postulated these interactions may assist in the spreading of pathological forms of this protein. Together, this presents the need for robust characterisation studies on αsyn fibrillization using biologically-derived vesicles. In this study, we comprehensively characterised the ability of lipid-rich small extracellular vesicles (sEVs) to alter the misfolding of αsyn induced using the Protein Misfolding Cyclic Amplification (PMCA) assay. The biochemical and biophysical properties of misfolded αsyn were examined using a range of techniques including: Thioflavin T fluorescence, transmission electron microscopy, analytical centrifugation and western immunoblot coupled with protease resistance assays and soluble/insoluble fractionation. We show that sEVs cause an acceleration in αsyn fibrillization and provide comprehensive evidence that this results in an increase in the abundance of mature insoluble fibrillar species. In order to elucidate the relevance of the lipid membrane to this interaction, sEV lipid membranes were modified by treatment with methanol, or a combination of methanol and sarkosyl. These treatments altered the ultrastructure of the sEVs without changing the protein cargo. Critically, these modified sEVs had a reduced ability to influence αsyn fibrillization compared to untreated counterparts. This study reports the first comprehensive examination of αsyn:EV interactions and demonstrates that sEVs are powerful modulators of αsyn fibrillization, which is mediated by the sEV membrane. In doing so, this work provides strong evidence for a role of sEVs in contributing directly to αsyn misfolding in the synucleinopathy disorders.

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Item type Article
DOI 10.1002/jev2.12034
Official URL
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 3101 Biochemistry and cell biology
Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 3205 Medical biochemistry and metabolomics
Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 3209 Neurosciences
Current > Division/Research > Chancellery
Keywords extracellular vesicle, EV, protein misfolding, lipid membrane
Citations in Scopus 7 - View on Scopus
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