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Excess protein linked to development of Parkinson's disease
Date:2/7/2013

urons of mice engineered to over-express the human protein.

They found that excess levels of alpha-synuclein accumulated in the presynaptic terminal part of the junction where axons and dendrites of brain cells meet to exchange chemical signals.

"The over-expression of alpha-synuclein caused hypertrophy in these terminals," said Daniela Boassa, PhD, a research scientist at NCMIR and the study's first author. "The terminals were enlarged, filled with structures we normally don't see."

Boassa said that as alpha-synuclein accumulates in the terminals, it appears to hinder normal degradation and recycling processes in neurons. This would progressively impair the release of neurotransmitters. In time, the neurons might simply stop functioning and die.

"Other studies have noted that PD is characterized by progressive loss of vesicle traffic, and neurotransmitter release," Boassa said. "Our study provides a structural and mechanistic explanation for why that happens."

Boassa said the findings shed greater light upon how PD is caused, at least in some heritable forms. Researchers plan to now probe more deeply into how the disease is propagated and how dysfunctional alpha-synuclein proteins spread from one neuron to another, hastening the advance of the disorder.

"The better we understand the mechanisms of PD, the easier it will be to develop clinical interventions," she said.


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Contact: Scott LaFee
slafee@ucsd.edu
619-543-6163
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert  

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