Mice lacking alpha-synuclein display functional deficits in the nigrostriatal dopamine system.
alpha-Synuclein (alpha-Syn) is a 14 kDa protein of unknown function that has been implicated in the pathophysiology of Parkinson's disease (PD). Here, we show that alpha-Syn-/- mice are viable and fertile, exhibit intact brain architecture, and possess a normal complement of dopaminergic cell bodies, fibers, and synapses. Nigrostriatal terminals of alpha-Syn-/- mice display a standard pattern of dopamine (DA) discharge and reuptake in response to simple electrical stimulation. However, they exhibit an increased release with paired stimuli that can be mimicked by elevated Ca2+. Concurrent with the altered DA release, alpha-Syn-/- mice display a reduction in striatal DA and an attenuation of DA-dependent locomotor response to amphetamine. These findings support the hypothesis that alpha-Syn is an essential presynaptic, activity-dependent negative regulator of DA neurotransmission.