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Portrait of Tommy Nylander. Photo: Kennet Ruona

Tommy Nylander


Portrait of Tommy Nylander. Photo: Kennet Ruona

Adsorption of α-Synuclein to Supported Lipid Bilayers: Positioning and Role of Electrostatics.


  • Erik Hellstrand
  • Marie Grey
  • Marie-Louise Ainalem
  • John Ankner
  • V Trevor Forsyth
  • Giovanna Fragneto
  • Michael Haertlein
  • Marie-Therese Dauvergne
  • Hanna Nilsson
  • Patrik Brundin
  • Sara Linse
  • Tommy Nylander
  • Emma Sparr

Summary, in English

An amyloid form of the protein α-synuclein is the major component of the intraneuronal inclusions called Lewy bodies, which are the neuropathological hallmark of Parkinson's disease (PD). α-Synuclein is known to associate with anionic lipid membranes, and interactions between aggregating α-synuclein and cellular membranes are thought to be important for PD pathology. We have studied the molecular determinants for adsorption of monomeric α-synuclein to planar model lipid membranes composed of zwitterionic phosphatidylcholine alone or in a mixture with anionic phosphatidylserine (relevant for plasma membranes) or anionic cardiolipin (relevant for mitochondrial membranes). We studied the adsorption of the protein to supported bilayers, the position of the protein within and outside the bilayer, and structural changes in the model membranes using two complementary techniques-quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring, and neutron reflectometry. We found that the interaction and adsorbed conformation depend on membrane charge, protein charge, and electrostatic screening. The results imply that α-synuclein adsorbs in the headgroup region of anionic lipid bilayers with extensions into the bulk but does not penetrate deeply into or across the hydrophobic acyl chain region. The adsorption to anionic bilayers leads to a small perturbation of the acyl chain packing that is independent of anionic headgroup identity. We also explored the effect of changing the area per headgroup in the lipid bilayer by comparing model systems with different degrees of acyl chain saturation. An increase in area per lipid headgroup leads to an increase in the level of α-synuclein adsorption with a reduced water content in the acyl chain layer. In conclusion, the association of α-synuclein to membranes and its adsorbed conformation are of electrostatic origin, combined with van der Waals interactions, but with a very weak correlation to the molecular structure of the anionic lipid headgroup. The perturbation of the acyl chain packing upon monomeric protein adsorption favors association with unsaturated phospholipids preferentially found in the neuronal membrane.


  • Biophysical Chemistry
  • Physical Chemistry
  • European Spallation Source ESS AB
  • Department of Experimental Medical Science
  • Biochemistry and Structural Biology
  • MultiPark: Multidisciplinary research focused on Parkinson´s disease

Publishing year







ACS Chemical Neuroscience





Document type

Journal article


The American Chemical Society (ACS)


  • Neurosciences




  • ISSN: 1948-7193