Researchers at Johns Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering (ICE) have discovered a protein that could be the best new target in the fight against Parkinsons disease since the brain-damaging condition was first tied to loss of the brain chemical dopamine.
Over the past year, the gene for this protein, called LRRK2 (pronounced "lark-2"), had emerged as perhaps the most common genetic cause of both familial and unpredictable cases of Parkinsons disease. Until now, however, no one knew for sure what the LRRK2 protein did in brain cells or whether interfering with it would be possible.
Now, after studying the protein in the lab, Johns Hopkins researchers report that the huge LRRK2 protein is part of a class of proteins called kinases and, like other members of the family, helps control other proteins activities by transferring small groups called phosphates onto them. The researchers also report that two of the known Parkinsons-linked mutations in the LRRK2 gene increase the proteins phosphate-adding activity. The findings appear in the current (Nov. 15) issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Joanna Downer | EurekAlert!
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