Research raises hope for solving Parkinson disease puzzle

Feb 28, 2011

A protein pathway that may hold the secret to understanding Parkinson disease has been discovered and explained by Iowa State University researchers.

Anumantha Kanthasamy, a distinguished professor of biomedical sciences and the W Eugene and Linda R Lloyd Endowed Chair in Neurotoxicology at the ISU College of Veterinary Medicine, has been working to understand the complex mechanisms of the disease for more than a decade. He believes this recent discovery offers hope for the cure.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and is published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Parkinson disease sufferers lack a sufficient amount of the brain chemical dopamine. In previous research, Kanthasamy has shown that a novel protein—known as protein kinase-C (specifically PKCd)—kills essential dopamine-producing cells in the brain.

Now, Kanthasamy has shown how to modify the production of the kinase-C, and, more important, how to inhibit it.

The process begins with a protein called alpha-synuclein that, after interacting with other proteins in cells, becomes part of the protein complex that modifies kinase-C level in the cells.

One of the proteins that alpha-synuclein interacts with inside the cell is known as p300.

By changing the activity of p300 protein, Kanthasamy believes that production of the destructive kinase-C will be inhibited.

"We have identified an essential pathway that regulates the survival of dopamine-producing nerve cells," he said.

"This p300 is an intermediate protein that is implicit in the Parkinson's disease," he said. "By modifying this protein, we can potentially reduce the expression of kinase-C and the associated destructive effects on dopamine-producing cells."

"We found the mechanism," said Kanthasamy of the pathway. "Now we can focus on finding chemicals that may be able to control the mechanism."

Source: News Release
Iowa State University
February 28, 2011