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Hum Mol Genet. 2011 Apr 15;20(8):1478-87. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddr026. Epub 2011 Jan 21.

Cyclin-G-associated kinase modifies α-synuclein expression levels and toxicity in Parkinson's disease: results from the GenePD Study.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Boston University School of Medicine, 72 East Concord Street, E-304, Boston, MA 02118, USA.


Although family history is a well-established risk factor for Parkinson's disease (PD), fewer than 5% of PD cases can be attributed to known genetic mutations. The etiology for the remainder of PD cases is unclear; however, neuronal accumulation of the protein α-synuclein is common to nearly all patients, implicating pathways that influence α-synuclein in PD pathogenesis. We report a genome-wide significant association (P = 3.97 × 10(-8)) between a polymorphism, rs1564282, in the cyclin-G-associated kinase (GAK) gene and increased PD risk, with a meta-analysis odds ratio of 1.48. This association result is based on the meta-analysis of three publicly available PD case-control genome-wide association study and genotyping from a new, independent Italian cohort. Microarray expression analysis of post-mortem frontal cortex from PD and control brains demonstrates a significant association between rs1564282 and higher α-synuclein expression, a known cause of early onset PD. Functional knockdown of GAK in cell culture causes a significant increase in toxicity when α-synuclein is over-expressed. Furthermore, knockdown of GAK in rat primary neurons expressing the A53T mutation of α-synuclein, a well-established model for PD, decreases cell viability. These observations provide evidence that GAK is associated with PD risk and suggest that GAK and α-synuclein interact in a pathway involved in PD pathogenesis. The GAK protein, a serine/threonine kinase, belongs to a family of proteins commonly targeted for drug development. This, combined with GAK's observed relationship to the levels of α-synuclein expression and toxicity, suggests that the protein is an attractive therapeutic target for the treatment of PD.

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