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J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2008 May;67(5):377-87. doi: 10.1097/NEN.0b013e31816ff780.

DNA damage and repair: relevance to mechanisms of neurodegeneration.

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Department of Pathology, Division of Neuropathology, and Neuroscience, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21205-2196, USA.


DNA damage is a form of cell stress and injury that has been implicated in the pathogenesis of many neurologic disorders, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer disease, Down syndrome, Parkinson disease, cerebral ischemia, and head trauma. However, most data reveal only associations, and the role for DNA damage in direct mechanisms of neurodegeneration is vague with respect to being a definitive upstream cause of neuron cell death, rather than a consequence of the degeneration. Although neurons seem inclined to develop DNA damage during oxidative stress, most of the existing work on DNA damage and repair mechanisms has been done in the context of cancer biology using cycling nonneuronal cells but not nondividing (i.e. postmitotic) neurons. Nevertheless, the identification of mutations in genes that encode proteins that function in DNA repair and DNA damage response in human hereditary DNA repair deficiency syndromes and ataxic disorders is establishing a mechanistic precedent that clearly links DNA damage and DNA repair abnormalities with progressive neurodegeneration. This review summarizes DNA damage and repair mechanisms and their potential relevance to the evolution of degeneration in postmitotic neurons.

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