Protein Folding and Conformational Diseases: “α-Helical peptidic scaffolds to target α-synuclein toxic species with nanomolar affinity”

Nature Communications volume 12, Article number: 3752 (2021)


α-Synuclein aggregation is a key driver of neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s disease and related syndromes. Accordingly, obtaining a molecule that targets α-synuclein toxic assemblies with high affinity is a long-pursued objective. Here, we exploit the biophysical properties of toxic oligomers and amyloid fibrils to identify a family of α-helical peptides that bind to these α-synuclein species with low nanomolar affinity, without interfering with the monomeric functional protein. This activity is translated into a high anti-aggregation potency and the ability to abrogate oligomer-induced cell damage. Using a structure-guided search we identify a human peptide expressed in the brain and the gastrointestinal tract with analogous binding, anti-aggregation, and detoxifying properties. The chemical entities we describe here may represent a therapeutic avenue for the synucleinopathies and are promising tools to assist diagnosis by discriminating between native and toxic α-synuclein species.