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Penn Vet study reveals a promising new target for Parkinson's disease therapies

against MPTP toxicity. The authors now show that mitochondrial CYP2D6 can effectively metabolize MPTP to toxic MPP+, indicating a possible connection between mitochondrial CYP2D6 and Parkinson's.

"About 80 percent of the human population has only one copy of CYP2D6, but the other 20 percent has variant forms of it and some populations have multiple copies," Avadhani said. "In those people, the activity of mitochondrial CYP2D6 can be high, and there have been correlations between these variants and the incidence of Parkinson's disease."

Working with primary neuronal cells in culture, the researchers showed that mitochondrial CYP2D6 could actively oxidize MPTP to MPP+. When they introduced compounds that selectively inhibited the activity of CYP2D6, this conversion process was largely halted. Neuronal degeneration was also greatly reduced.

"If we add MPTP to dopamine-sensitive neurons and also add a CYP2D6 inhibitor, we see marked protection of the neuronal function," Avadhani said. "We believe this is a paradigm shift in how we think about the mechanism of Parkinson's."

A number of MAO-B inhibitors used in the clinical setting for treating Parkinson's disease have unwanted side effects. A mitochondrial CYP2D6 inhibitor represents a much more specific and direct target and may thus cause fewer troublesome side effects.

To take the next step with this finding, Avadhani and his colleagues are developing an animal model and using stem cells to confirm the significance of mitochondrial CYP2D6's role in the development of Parkinson's symptoms.


Contact: Katherine Unger Baillie
University of Pennsylvania

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