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Am J Pathol. 2002 Dec;161(6):2087-98.

Cytoplasmic aggregates of phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated protein kinases in Lewy body diseases.

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Department of Pathology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, 200 Lothrop Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


A better understanding of cellular mechanisms that occur in Parkinson's disease and related Lewy body diseases is essential for development of new therapies. We previously found that 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) elicits sustained extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) activation that contributes to neuronal cell death in vitro. As subcellular localization of activated kinases affect accessibility to downstream targets, we examined spatial patterns of ERK phosphorylation in 6-OHDA-treated cells and in human postmortem tissues representing the full spectrum of Lewy body diseases. All diseased human cases exhibited striking granular cytoplasmic aggregates of phospho-ERK (P-ERK) in the substantia nigra (involving 28 +/- 2% of neurons), which were largely absent in control cases (0.3 +/- 0.3%). Double-labeling studies and examination of preclinical cases suggested that these P-ERK alterations could occur relatively early in the disease process. Development of granular cytoplasmic P-ERK staining in 6-OHDA-treated cells was blocked by neuroprotective doses of catalase, supporting a role for oxidants in eliciting neurotoxic patterns of ERK activation. Evidence of nuclear translocation was not observed in degenerating neurons. Moreover, granular cytoplasmic P-ERK was associated with alterations in the distribution of downstream targets such as P-RSK1, but not of P-Elk-1, suggesting functional diversion of ERK-signaling pathways in Lewy body diseases.

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