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J Neurochem. 2006 Feb;96(4):909-16. Epub 2006 Jan 17.

Modifications of the iron-neuromelanin system in Parkinson's disease.

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Department of Structural and Functional Biology, and Centre of Neuroscience, University of Insubria, Busto Arsizio, Italy.


Parkinson's disease is a common neurodegenerative disorder with a mainly sporadic aetiology, although a number of monogenic familiar forms are known. Most of the motor symptoms are due to selective depletion of dopaminergic, neuromelanin-containing neurones of the substantia nigra pars compacta. Neuromelanin is the dark insoluble macromolecule that confers the black (substantia nigra) or grey (locus coeruleus) colour to monoaminergic basal ganglia. In particular, nigral neurones are pigmented because of the accumulation of by-products of oxidative metabolism of the neurotransmitter dopamine. The occurrence of dopamine (and all the enzymatic machinery required for dopamine synthesis, re-uptake and disposal) and neuromelanin, and a large amount of iron ions that interact with them, makes dopaminergic nigral neurones peculiarly susceptible to oxidative stress conditions that, in turn, may become amplified by the iron-neuromelanin system itself. In this mini-review we describe biophysical evidence for iron-neuromelanin modifications that support this hypothesis. Furthermore, we discuss the formation of the covalent linkage between alpha-synuclein and neuromelanin from the early stages of the disease.

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