Scientists studying rats induced to display a form of Parkinson’s disease discovered that a protein commonly found in brain cells can be toxic if — at one pinpoint location in its amino acid structure — it lacks a chemical compound called a phosphate.
When scientists used gene therapy to simulate a phosphate at this critical position, the rats’ brain cells didn’t develop the Parkinson-like pathology that would normally occur.
The finding provides new insight into the fundamentals of Parkinson’s disease and the role of an abundant yet mysterious brain protein known as alpha-synuclein, which is believed to help brain cells communicate but may have a more sinister role in the development of neurological diseases.
“We have another potential target for therapy, but there is a great deal left to discover,” said Nicholas Muzyczka, Ph.D., a professor of molecular genetics and microbiology in the College of Medicine and an eminent scholar with the UF Genetics Institute. “This is one more piece of information about what might be causing the toxicity in Parkinson’s disease, and it gives us a little more to go on about what alpha-synuclein does in the brain.”
Generally located at the synapses of nerve cells, alpha-synuclein is believed to aid in brain function, possibly by helping cells communicate with one another by controlling the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine.
Mutations of alpha-synuclein may cause a rare, inherited form of Parkinson’s, and the protein has been found to be the major component of Lewy bodies, which are abnormal clusters of protein in the brain cells of patients with Parkinson’s disease.
The National Parkinson Foundation estimates 1.5 million Americans currently have Parkinson’s disease and about 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. It is caused by the death or impairment of certain nerve cells in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra. When these cells die, the body is deprived of dopamine, a neurotransmitter vital for movement.
“We know of several enzymes that can cause phosphorylation in the proper position of the alpha-synuclein protein,” said Oleg Gorbatyuk, Ph.D., an assistant professor of molecular genetics and microbiology. “Increasing their expression in brains afflicted with Parkinson’s disease could possibly provide a gene therapy approach to the disease.”
In experiments described in the Jan. 15 issue of PNAS, UF researchers used gene transfer to enhance the production of three versions of alpha-synuclein in the substantia nigra region on one side of the rats’ brains. The other side was not treated, for comparison purposes.
Of the types of alpha-synuclein, the one that simulated phosphorylation at position 129 of the protein was nontoxic. But the other versions of the protein all caused significant loss of dopamine neurons in the substantia nigra.
“Adding a phosphate group is about the smallest thing that can possibly happen in biology,” said Mark R. Cookson, an investigator in the Cell Biology and Gene Expression Unit of the National Institute on Aging who was not involved in the research. “But this relatively minor, innocuous change can switch everything around from being a big problem to being no problem. This research really gives us an idea of some things going on in inherited cases of Parkinson’s disease, and if we use that genetic information as a handle to get into the common disease, it is possible to take this from genetics to a drug discovery program.”
John D. Pastor | EurekAlert!
Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München
Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine
21.10.2016 | Information Technology
21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences