The mechanism by which the Parkinson’s disease-related protein α-synuclein (α-syn) causes neurodegeneration has not been elucidated. To determine the genes that protect cells from α-syn, we used a genetic screen to identify suppressors of the super sensitivity of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae expressing α-syn to killing by hydrogen peroxide. Forty genes in ubiquitin-dependent protein catabolism, protein biosynthesis, vesicle trafficking and the response to stress were identified. Five of the forty genes—ENT3, IDP3, JEM1, ARG2 and HSP82—ranked highest in their ability to block α-syn-induced reactive oxygen species accumulation, and these five genes were characterized in more detail. The deletion of any of these five genes enhanced the toxicity of α-syn as judged by growth defects compared with wild-type cells expressing α-syn, which indicates that these genes protect cells from α-syn. Strikingly, four of the five genes are specific for α-syn in that they fail to protect cells from the toxicity of the two inherited mutants A30P or A53T. This finding suggests that α-syn causes toxicity to cells through a different pathway than these two inherited mutants. Lastly, overexpression of Ent3p, which is a clathrin adapter protein involved in protein transport between the Golgi and the vacuole, causes α-syn to redistribute from the plasma membrane into cytoplasmic vesicular structures. Our interpretation is that Ent3p mediates the transport of α-syn to the vacuole for proteolytic degradation. A similar clathrin adaptor protein, epsinR, exists in humans.

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