Alpha-synuclein aggregation and mitochondrial dysfunction are main pathological hallmarks of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and several other neurodegenerative diseases, collectively known as synucleinopathies. However, increasing evidence suggests that they may not be sufficient to cause PD. Here we propose the role of hypoxia as a missing link that connects the complex interplay between alpha-synuclein biochemistry and pathology, mitochondrial dysfunctions and neurodegeneration in PD. We review the partly conflicting literature on alpha-synuclein binding to membranes and mitochondria and its impact on mitochondrial functions. From there, we focus on adverse changes in cellular environments, revolving around hypoxic stress, that may trigger or facilitate PD progression. Inter-dependent structural re-arrangements of mitochondrial membranes, including increased cytoplasmic exposure of mitochondrial cardiolipins and changes in alpha-synuclein localization and conformation are discussed consequences of such conditions. Enhancing cellular resilience could be an integral part of future combination-based therapies of PD. This may be achieved by boosting the capacity of cellular and specifically mitochondrial processes to regulate and adapt to altered proteostasis, redox, and inflammatory conditions and by inducing protective molecular and tissue re-modelling.
Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier Inc.