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 31, 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 31, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 30, 2014) — Obamacare-related costs were said to be behind the profit plunge at Wellpoint and Humana, but Wellpoint sees the new exchanges boosting its earnings for the full year. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Peace Corps Pulls Workers From W. Africa Over Ebola Fears

Peace Corps Pulls Workers From W. Africa Over Ebola Fears

Newsy (July 30, 2014) — The Peace Corps is one of several U.S.-based organizations to pull workers out of West Africa because of the Ebola outbreak. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Weather Kills 2K A Year, But Storms Aren't The Main Offender

Weather Kills 2K A Year, But Storms Aren't The Main Offender

Newsy (July 30, 2014) — Health officials say 2,000 deaths occur each year in the U.S. due to weather, but it's excessive heat and cold that claim the most lives. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) — Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 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