Presynaptic nerve terminals release neurotransmitters repeatedly, often at high frequency, and in relative isolation from neuronal cell bodies. Repeated release requires cycles of soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor attachment protein receptor (SNARE)-complex assembly and disassembly, with continuous generation of reactive SNARE-protein intermediates. Although many forms of neurodegeneration initiate presynaptically, only few pathogenic mechanisms are known, and the functions of presynaptic proteins linked to neurodegeneration, such as α-synuclein, remain unclear. Here, we show that maintenance of continuous presynaptic SNARE-complex assembly required a nonclassical chaperone activity mediated by synucleins. Specifically, α-synuclein directly bound to the SNARE-protein synaptobrevin-2/vesicle-associated membrane protein 2 (VAMP2) and promoted SNARE-complex assembly. Moreover, triple-knockout mice lacking synucleins developed age-dependent neurological impairments, exhibited decreased SNARE-complex assembly, and died prematurely. Thus, synucleins may function to sustain normal SNARE-complex assembly in a presynaptic terminal during aging.
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