Trinity scientists make breakthrough in understanding how parkin, a gene implicated in Parkinson's disease, controls the repair and replacement of nerve cells
Parkin-expressing cells (red) are undergoing programmed cell death.
Credit: Dr. Emilie Hollville and Professor Seamus Martin, Trinity College Dublin
Scientists at Trinity College Dublin have made an important breakthrough in our understanding of Parkin - a protein that regulates the repair and replacement of nerve cells within the brain. This breakthrough generates a new perspective on how nerve cells die in Parkinson's disease.
The Trinity research group, led by Smurfit Professor of Medical Genetics, Professor Seamus Martin, has just published its findings in the internationally renowned, peer-reviewed Cell Press journal, Cell Reports.
Although mutation of Parkin has been known to lead to an early onset form of Parkinson's for many years, understanding what it actually did within cells has been difficult to solve.
Now, Professor Martin and colleagues have discovered that in response to specific types of cell damage, Parkin can trigger the self-destruction of 'injured' nerve cells by switching on a controlled process of 'cellular suicide' called apoptosis.
Using cutting-edge research techniques, the Martin laboratory, funded by Science Foundation Ireland, found that damage to mitochondria (which function as 'cellular battery packs') activates the Parkin protein, which results in one of two different outcomes - either self-destruction or a repair mode. Which outcome was chosen depended on the degree of damage suffered by the cellular battery packs.
Importantly, these new findings suggest that one of the problems in Parkinson's disease may be the failure to clear away sick nerve cells with faulty cellular battery packs, to make way for healthy replacements. Instead, sickly and dysfunctional nerve cells may accumulate, which effectively prevents the recruitment of fresh replacements.
Commenting on the findings, Professor Martin stated: "This discovery is surprising and turns on its head the way we thought that Parkin functions. Until now, we have thought of Parkin as a brake on cell death within nerve cells, helping to delay their death. However, our new data suggests the contrary: Parkin may in fact help to weed out injured and sick nerve cells, which probably facilitates their replacement. This suggests that Parkinson's disease could result from the accumulation of defective neurons due to the failure of this cellular weeding process."
Professor Martin also added: "We are very grateful for the support of Science Foundation Ireland, who funded this research. This work represents an excellent example of how basic research leads to fundamental breakthroughs in our understanding of how diseases arise. Without such knowledge, it would be very difficult to develop new therapies."
The work was carried out in Trinity's School of Genetics and Microbiology. The research team was led by Professor Martin and included Trinity PhD student Richard Carroll and Research Fellow Dr Emilie Hollville. The Trinity research team is internationally recognised for its work on the regulation of cell death.
For media queries, please contact:
Thomas Deane, Press Officer for the Faculty of Engineering, Mathematics and Science, Trinity College Dublin, at email@example.com or Tel: +353-1-896-4685 / +353-85-131-5587
Smurfit Professor of Medical Genetics, Seamus Martin, Trinity College Dublin, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to the editor:
1. Full title of the journal article is: 'Parkin Sensitizes toward Apoptosis Induced by Mitochondrial Depolarization through Promoting Degradation of Mcl-1, Cell Press journal, Cell Reports
About Trinity College Dublin
Trinity College Dublin, founded in 1592 is Ireland's oldest university and today has a vibrant community of 17,000 students. It is recognised internationally as Ireland's premier university. Cutting edge research, technology and innovation places the university at the forefront of higher education in Ireland and globally. It encompasses all major academic disciplines, and is committed to world-class teaching and research across the range of disciplines in the arts, humanities, engineering, science, social and health sciences.
Trinity is Ireland's leading university across all international rankings, and was ranked 61st globally in 2013 QS World University Ranking http://www.tcd.ie .
High-resolution images and captions are available, and can be accessed from this Dropbox folder: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/cyd6sf5eazbqsr0/AAB7uFMeI9-CbxVbJ4L7L3Cfa?dl=0
Thomas Deane | EurekAlert!
Transport of molecular motors into cilia
28.03.2017 | Aarhus University
Asian dust providing key nutrients for California's giant sequoias
28.03.2017 | University of California - Riverside
The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.
To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
29.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
29.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
29.03.2017 | Earth Sciences