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Mol Neurobiol. 2001 Aug-Dec;24(1-3):99-106.

Zinc and disease of the brain.

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Center for the Study of CNS Zinc, Department of Neurology, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.


Zinc is one of the most abundant transition metals in the brain. A substantial fraction (10-15%) of brain zinc is located inside presynaptic vesicles of certain glutamatergic terminals in a free or loosely bound state. This vesicle zinc is released with neuronal activity or depolarization, probably serving physiologic functions. However, with excess release, as may occur in a variety of pathologic conditions, zinc may translocate to and accumulate in postsynaptic neurons, events which may contribute to selective neuronal cell death. Intracellular mechanisms of zinc neurotoxicity may include disturbances in energy metabolism, increases in oxidative stress, and activation of apoptosis cascades. Zinc inhibits glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH), and depletes nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD(+)) and adenosine triphosphate (ATP). On the other hand, zinc activates protein kinase C (PKC) and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (Erk-1/2), and induces NADPH oxidase; these events result in oxidative neuronal injury. Zinc can also trigger caspase activation and apoptosis via the p75(NTR) pathway. Interestingly, the converse-depletion of intracellular zinc-also induces neuronal death, but in this case, exclusively via classical apoptosis. In addition to the neurotoxic effect, zinc may contribute to the pathogenesis of chronic neurodegenerative disease. For example, in Alzheimer's disease (AD), mature amyloid plaques, but not preamyloid deposits, are found to contain high levels of zinc, suggesting the role of zinc in the process of plaque maturation. Further insights into roles of zinc in brain diseases may help set a new direction toward the development of effective treatments.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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