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J Neurochem. 2006 Jun;97(6):1659-75.

The role of mitochondria in inherited neurodegenerative diseases.

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  • 1Department of Neurology and Neuroscience, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, New York 10021, USA.


In the past decade, the genetic causes underlying familial forms of many neurodegenerative disorders, such as Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Friedreich ataxia, hereditary spastic paraplegia, dominant optic atrophy, Charcot-Marie-Tooth type 2A, neuropathy ataxia and retinitis pigmentosa, and Leber's hereditary optic atrophy have been elucidated. However, the common pathogenic mechanisms of neuronal death are still largely unknown. Recently, mitochondrial dysfunction has emerged as a potential 'lowest common denominator' linking these disorders. In this review, we discuss the body of evidence supporting the role of mitochondria in the pathogenesis of hereditary neurodegenerative diseases. We summarize the principal features of genetic diseases caused by abnormalities of mitochondrial proteins encoded by the mitochondrial or the nuclear genomes. We then address genetic diseases where mutant proteins are localized in multiple cell compartments, including mitochondria and where mitochondrial defects are likely to be directly caused by the mutant proteins. Finally, we describe examples of neurodegenerative disorders where mitochondrial dysfunction may be 'secondary' and probably concomitant with degenerative events in other cell organelles, but may still play an important role in the neuronal decay. Understanding the contribution of mitochondrial dysfunction to neurodegeneration and its pathophysiological basis will significantly impact our ability to develop more effective therapies for neurodegenerative diseases.

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