Chemical stresses that build up in elderly brains can lead to dementias such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. Researchers have now identified a chemical reaction that may lead to the formation of damaging protein clumps that underpin these conditions, potentially paving the way for new methods to combat their progression.
Protein-disulphide isomerase (PDI), helps proteins to fold properly and prevents the formation of damaging clumps of tangled protein in the brain. Stuart Lipton and colleagues show in the 25 May issue of Nature (Vol. 441, No. 7092, pp. 513-517) that PDI's task can be hampered by the build-up of nitric oxide, which reacts with PDI and stops it working.
Lipton and his team further showed that in patients with neurodegeneration, PDI was 'nitrosylated', rendering it ineffective. Stopping this chemical reaction could stave off the effects of dementia, the authors suggest.
Stuart S A Lipton (Burnham Institute for Medical Research, La Jolla, CA, USA)
(C) Nature press release.
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