How Parkinson's disease starts and spreads

April 16, 2012

Injection of a small amount of clumped protein triggers a cascade of events leading to a Parkinson's-like disease in mice, according to an article published online this week in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Progressive accumulation of clumps of the protein alpha-synuclein in the brains of patients with Parkinson's disease coincides with the onset of . However, whether these clumps are sufficient to trigger neurodegeneration, and how these clumps spread throughout the brain, remained unclear.

To answer these questions, a team led by Virginia M.Y. Lee at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine studied mice expressing a mutated form of alpha-synuclein found in patients with Parkinson's disease. These mice show symptoms of disease around one year of age but not earlier.

Lee and colleagues found that injecting preformed clumps of human alpha-synuclein into the brains of young mice accelerated disease onset and severity. These clumps seemed to act as "seeds" that recruited even the mouse version of alpha-synuclein into new clumps, which then spread throughout the brain. The pattern of spreading from neuron to neuron suggests that the clumps may hijack the highway traveled by normal brain signals.

These findings suggest that Parkinson's disease, like other including Alzheimer's, may start and progress due to abnormal aggregation and accumulation of proteins within the brain. What gets these clumps going in the first place remains unclear.

Explore further: SUMO defeats protein aggregates that typify Parkinson's disease

More information: Hung, L.W., et al. 2012. J. Exp. Med. doi:10.1084/jem.20112285

Related Stories

SUMO defeats protein aggregates that typify Parkinson's disease

July 11, 2011
A small protein called SUMO might prevent the protein aggregations that typify Parkinson's disease (PD), according to a new study in the July 11, 2011, issue of The Journal of Cell Biology.

Seeds of destruction in Parkinson's disease: Spread of diseased proteins kills neurons

October 5, 2011
New research suggests that small "seed" amounts of diseased brain proteins can be taken up by healthy neurons and propagated within them to cause neurodegeneration. The research, published by Cell Press in the October 6 issue ...

Structure of Parkinson's disease protein identified

October 24, 2011
A team of researchers from the Petsko-Ringe and Pochapsky laboratories at Brandeis have produced and determined the structure of alpha-synuclein, a key protein associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Recommended for you

Singing may be good medicine for Parkinson's patients

August 11, 2017
(HealthDay)—Singing? To benefit people with Parkinson's disease? It just may help, a researcher says.

Tracing the path of Parkinson's disease proteins

August 4, 2017
As neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease progress, misfolded proteins clump together in neurons, recruiting normal proteins in the cell to also misfold and aggregate. Cells in which this ...

Diabetes drug shows potential as disease-modifying therapy for Parkinson's disease

August 3, 2017
A drug commonly used to treat diabetes may have disease-modifying potential to treat Parkinson's disease, a new UCL-led study suggests, paving the way for further research to define its efficacy and safety.

Two new studies offer insights into gastrointestinal dysfunction in Parkinson's patients

July 31, 2017
Constipation is one of the most common non-motor related complaints affecting Parkinson's disease (PD) patients. Two important studies from the same research group published in the Journal of Parkinson's Disease expand the ...

New drug may treat and limit progression of Parkinson's disease

July 31, 2017
Researchers at Binghamton University have developed a new drug that may limit the progression of Parkinson's disease while providing better symptom relief to potentially hundreds of thousands of people with the disease.

A new insight into Parkinson's disease protein

July 28, 2017
Abnormal clumps of certain proteins in the brain are a prominent feature of Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative diseases, but the role those same proteins might play in the normal brain has been unknown.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.