The Cross-Border Biotech Blog

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Friday Science Review: May 17, 2013

Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disease characterized by motor and cognitive deficits, may be caused by mutations in the Parkin gene. The Parkin gene transcribes the Parkin protein, an enzyme which has been implicated in cellular processes including autophagy, or “cell housekeeping,” and cell survival. Recent work from the Montreal Neurological Institute and McGill University’s Department of Biochemistry published in Science magazine demonstrates the crystal structure of the Parkin protein. The crystal structure of a protein offers an excellent idea of the natural conformation a protein adopts; determining the structure of Parkin protein, surely an immense amount of work, will allow for advanced studies of how the protein normally functions, and will increase understanding of how mutations in the Parkin protein lead to the deficits seen in Parkinson’s disease.

Parkin protein normally has low basal activity. Following determination of the structure of Parkin, the authors found that it can maintain this low baseline by inhibiting itself. Additionally, by testing a number of mutations in the Parkin protein, they found that most mutations greatly reduce or abolish its already low basal activity. However, mutations directed at eliminating auto-inhibition of Parkin were able to increase activity of the protein, indicating that it is possible to bidirectionally change its activity. These experiments demonstrate the utility of knowing the crystal structure of the Parkin protein, as future studies will be able to better evaluate how the activity of the protein can be managed, which may prove very important in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

One response to “Friday Science Review: May 17, 2013

  1. Pingback: Friday Science Review: May 17, 2013 « Non Resource Report

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