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Trends Mol Med. 2006 Nov;12(11):521-8. Epub 2006 Oct 5.

Understanding the molecular causes of Parkinson's disease.

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Department of Molecular Neuroscience, Institute of Neurology, and National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK.


Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disease that is both common and incurable. The majority of cases are sporadic and of unknown origin but several genes have been identified that, when mutated, give rise to rare, familial forms of the disease. The principal genes that have been shown to cause PD are alpha-synuclein (SNCA), parkin, leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2), PTEN-induced putative kinase 1 (PINK1) and DJ-1. Here, we discuss what has been learnt from the study of these genes and what has been elucidated of the molecular pathways that lead to cell degeneration. Of importance is what these molecular events and pathways tell scientists of the common sporadic form of PD. Although complete knowledge of these genes' functions remains elusive, recent work implicates abnormal protein accumulation, protein phosphorylation, mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress as common pathways to PD pathogenesis.

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