Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Parkinson's gene: Nerve growth factor halts mitochondrial degeneration

Date:
January 30, 2014
Source:
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Summary:
Neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's disease involve the death of thousands of neurons in the brain. Nerve growth factors produced by the body, such as GDNF, promote the survival of the neurons; however, clinical tests with GDNF have not yielded in any clear improvements. Scientists have now succeeded in demonstrating that GDNF and its receptor Ret also promote the survival of mitochondria, the power plants of the cell. By activating the Ret receptor, the scientists were able to prevent in flies and human cell cultures the degeneration of mitochondria, which is caused by a gene defect related to Parkinson's disease.

The PINK1 gene plays a role in Parkinson’s disease. If the gene is switched off in the fly, the mitochondria (green) are damaged and the animal’s muscle fibres (red) disintegrate. The activation of the Ret receptor, which binds the growth factor GNDF in humans, counteracts this degeneration.
Credit: © MPI of Neurobiology / Klein

Neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's disease involve the death of thousands of neurons in the brain. Nerve growth factors produced by the body, such as GDNF, promote the survival of the neurons; however, clinical tests with GDNF have not yielded in any clear improvements. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried and their colleagues have now succeeded in demonstrating that GDNF and its receptor Ret also promote the survival of mitochondria, the power plants of the cell. By activating the Ret receptor, the scientists were able to prevent in flies and human cell cultures the degeneration of mitochondria, which is caused by a gene defect related to Parkinson's disease. This important new link could lead to the development of more refined GDNF therapies in the future.

In his "Essay on the Shaking Palsy" of 1817, James Parkinson provided the first description of a disease that today affects almost 280,000 people in Germany. The most conspicuous symptom of Parkinson's disease is a slow tremor, which is usually accompanied by an increasing lack of mobility and movement in the entire body. These symptoms are visible manifestations of a dramatic change that takes place in the brain: the death of large numbers of neurons in the Substantia nigra of the midbrain.

Despite almost 200 years of research into Parkinson's, its causes have not yet been fully explained. It appears to be certain that, in addition to environmental factors, genetic mutations also play a role in the emergence of the disease. A series of genes is now associated with Parkinson's disease. One of these is PINK1, whose mutation causes mitochondrial dysfunction. Mitochondria are a cell's power plants and without them, a cell cannot function properly or regenerate. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology and their colleagues from Munich and Martinsried have now discovered a hitherto unknown link that counteracts mitochondrial dysfunction in the case of a PINK1 mutation.

The PINK1 gene emerged at a very early stage in evolutionary history and exists in a similar form for example in humans, mice and flies. In the fruit fly Drosophila, a mitochondrial defect triggered by a PINK1 mutation manifests in the fraying of the muscles. Less visible, the flies' neurons also die. The scientists studied the molecular processes involved in these changes and discovered that the activation of the Ret receptor counteracts the muscle degeneration. "This is a really interesting finding which links the mitochondrial degeneration in Parkinson's disease with nerve growth factors," reports Rόdiger Klein, the head of the research study. Ret is not an unknown factor for the Martinsried-based neurobiologists: "We already succeeded in demonstrating a few years ago in mice that neurons without the Ret receptor die prematurely and in greater numbers with increasing age," says Klein.

The Ret receptor is the cells' docking site for the growth factor GDNF, which is produced by the body. Various studies carried out in previous years showed that the binding of GDNF to its Ret receptor can prevent the early death of neurons in the Substantia nigra. However, clinical studies on the influence of GDNF on the progression of Parkinson's in patients did not lead to any clear improvement in their condition.

The new findings from basic research suggest that the mitochondrial metabolism is boosted or re-established through Ret/GNDF. "Based on this finding, existing therapies could be refined or tailored to specific patient groups," hopes Pontus Klein, who conducted the study within the framework of his doctoral thesis. This hope does not appear to be completely unfounded: The scientists have already discovered a Ret/GDNF effect in human cells with a PINK1 defect similar to that observed in the fruit fly. It may therefore be possible to search for metabolic defects in the mitochondria of Parkinson's patients in future. A specially tailored GDNF therapy could then provide a new therapeutic approach for patients who test positively.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. "Parkinson's gene: Nerve growth factor halts mitochondrial degeneration." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 January 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140130110955.htm>.
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. (2014, January 30). Parkinson's gene: Nerve growth factor halts mitochondrial degeneration. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140130110955.htm
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. "Parkinson's gene: Nerve growth factor halts mitochondrial degeneration." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140130110955.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

TheStreet (July 21, 2014) — New research shows Gilead Science's drug Sovaldi helps in curing hepatitis C in those who suffer from HIV. In a medical study, the combination of Gilead's Hep C drug with anti-viral drug Ribavirin cured 76% of HIV-positive patients suffering from the most common hepatitis C strain. Hepatitis C and related complications have been a top cause of death in HIV-positive patients. Typical medication used to treat the disease, including interferon proteins, tended to react badly with HIV drugs. However, Sovaldi's %1,000-a-pill price tag could limit the number of patients able to access the treatment. TheStreet's Keris Lahiff reports from New York. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

Newsy (July 20, 2014) — Cynthia Robinson claims R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company hid the health and addiction risks of its products, leading to the death of her husband in 1996. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tooth Plaque Provides Insight Into Diets Of Ancient People

Tooth Plaque Provides Insight Into Diets Of Ancient People

Newsy (July 19, 2014) — Research on plaque from ancient teeth shows that our prehistoric ancestor's had a detailed understanding of plants long before developing agriculture. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Contaminated Water Kills 3 Babies in South African Town

Contaminated Water Kills 3 Babies in South African Town

AFP (July 18, 2014) — Contaminated water in South Africa's northwestern town of Bloemhof kills three babies and hospitalises over 500 people. The incident highlights growing fears over water safety in South Africa. Duration: 02:22 Video provided by AFP
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