Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Communication breakdown: What happens to nerve cells in Parkinson's disease

Date:
February 10, 2010
Source:
McGill University
Summary:
Scientists have discovered a molecular link between Parkinson's disease and defects in the ability of nerve cells to communicate. The study provides new insight into the mechanisms underlying Parkinson's disease, and could lead to innovative new therapeutic strategies.

A new study from The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital -- The Neuro -- at McGill University is the first to discover a molecular link between Parkinson's disease and defects in the ability of nerve cells to communicate. The study, published in the journal Molecular Cell and selected as Editor's Choice in the journal Science, provides new insight into the mechanisms underlying Parkinson's disease, and could lead to innovative new therapeutic strategies.

Parkinson's, a neurodegenerative disease affecting approximately 100,000 Canadians and over 4 million people worldwide, a number expected to double by the year 2030, causes muscle stiffness and tremor and prevents people from controlling their movements in a normal manner. The disease is characterized by the degeneration and death of dopamine neurons in specific regions of the brain, causing neurological impairment. It is not known exactly what causes the death of these neurons.

Mutations in the parkin gene are responsible for a common inherited form of Parkinson's disease. By studying defects in the genes and proteins of patients with inherited forms of Parkinson's, principal author of the study at The Neuro, Dr. Edward Fon, is learning about the molecular mechanisms involved in the death of dopamine neurons.

The function of the parkin protein is not yet well defined. Scientists learn about the function of a protein by studying normal and mutated forms as well as investigating what the protein binds to. These kind of studies provide clues as to what processes the protein may be involved in. It is known that parkin is involved in the degradation of other proteins. However, how defects in this function are linked to Parkinson's remains unclear. To further understand how a mutated parkin protein causes Parkinson's, Dr. Fon and his colleagues looked at where mutations are found on the gene and focused on understanding the function of region that is commonly mutated and searched for proteins that bind to this particular domain of the protein.

They identified that parkin binds to a protein called endophilin-A, a protein discovered at The Neuro in 1997 by Dr. Peter McPherson, a co-investigator on the current study. Endophilin-A is central to the process of synaptic transmission, specifically synaptic vesicle trafficking. Synaptic transmission is the process whereby one nerve cell communicates with another. It involves the release of neurotransmitters from a synaptic vesicle at the surface of the cell. The neurotransmitter travels across the gap or synapse and is brought into (or endocytosed) the communicating neuron. Synaptic vesicles are spheres that transport and release neurotransmitters, the 'signal' required for the propagation of nerve cell signals across the synapse. The binding protein, endophilin-A plays an important role in regulating synaptic vesicle endocytosis, that is the formation, as well as recycling of synaptic vesicles.

"One of the most consistent and intriguing findings associated with both dominant and recessive forms of Parkinson's, including those due to parkin mutations, have been defects in synaptic transmission, possibly related to altered synaptic vesicle endocytosis, recycling or release," says Dr. Fon. "Yet, until now, the molecular mechanisms involved have remained completely unknown. Thus, by linking parkin to endophilin-A, a protein at the heart of synaptic vesicle endocytosis and recycling, our findings provide a molecular link between recessive Parkinson's genes and defects in synaptic transmission. This now gives us a whole new set of potential treatment targets."

"This provides a novel and critical molecular link between the parkin gene and synaptic regulation," says Dr. Jean-Francois Trempe, post-doctoral student in Dr. Kalle Gehring's lab at McGill, who studied the structural biology of the binding of the two proteins."The strength and specificity of the interaction makes it a very clear and interesting finding, and indicates that we are heading in the right direction."

"Our next studies will investigate the function of the parkin-endophilin-A interaction, adds Dr. Fon. "We believe that, if the parkin is mutated then the proper functioning of endophilin-A will be affected as it binds parkin, thereby disrupting synaptic vesicle recycling. This could potentially lead to the death of dopamine neurons by depriving neurons of neurotransmitters necessary for neuronal survival and functioning."

"Dr. Fon's new findings will improve our understanding of the defects in the genes and proteins of people who suffer from Parkinson's disease," says Dr. Anthony Phillips, Scientific Director at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction. "CIHR is proud to support research that may pave the way to innovative new therapeutic strategies to cure Parkinson's, which affects too many Canadians."

There is as yet, no known cure for Parkinson's disease. A number of drugs and clinical treatments have been developed which can help to control or minimize the symptoms of this disabling and debilitating disease.

This work was supported by CIHR, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, the R.H. Tomlinson Fellowship program, and the Fonds de la Recherche en Santι du Quιbec.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by McGill University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

McGill University. "Communication breakdown: What happens to nerve cells in Parkinson's disease." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 February 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100209200803.htm>.
McGill University. (2010, February 10). Communication breakdown: What happens to nerve cells in Parkinson's disease. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100209200803.htm
McGill University. "Communication breakdown: What happens to nerve cells in Parkinson's disease." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100209200803.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

AP (July 28, 2014) — A bipartisan deal to improve veterans health care would authorize at least $15 billion in emergency spending to fix a veterans program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) — Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
West Africa Gripped by Deadly Ebola Outbreak

West Africa Gripped by Deadly Ebola Outbreak

AFP (July 28, 2014) — The worst-ever outbreak of the deadly Ebola epidemic grips west Africa, killing hundreds. Duration: 00:48 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) — A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins