A Step Toward Prevention

Small ubiquitin like modifier protein could help prevent Parkinson's disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A variety of neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson's disease are defined by trademark protein clusters. Scientists have discovered a small protein that could aid in preventing Parkinson's disease.

Researchers found that the protein called small ubiquitin-like modifier could possibly prevent grouping into the insoluble protein clusters that typify Parkinson's disease. The findings were published in the July issue of The Journal of Cell Biology.

Research is edging one step closer to Parkinson's disease prevention.

In Parkinson's disease, neurons build up insoluble clumps of the protein alpha-synuclein. Researchers are not certain why these protein buildups occur.

However, investigators found a clue. Petranka Krumova, lead researcher from the department of neurology and department of biochemistry at the University of Göttingen in Germany, and her research team overexpressed alpha-synuclein in human kidney cells and discovered that the protein was modified by the addition of the small molecule SUMO.

Since sumoylation, or SUMO modification, generally boosts the solubility of proteins, the research raised the possibility that SUMO proteins affect the aggregation of alpha-synuclein.

Investigators tested whether sumoylating purified alpha-synuclein hindered its clustering into fibrils, filaments similar to those detected in neurons of Parkinson's patients. When all of the alpha-synuclein molecules in a solution were sumoylated, then no fibrils appeared.

But if as little as 10 percent of the molecules were sumoylated, fibril formation slowed dramatically.

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Review Date: 
July 11, 2011
Last Updated:
July 12, 2011