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Synapse. 2010 Mar;64(3):241-50. doi: 10.1002/syn.20719.

The pattern of neuronal loss and survival may reflect differential expression of proteasome activators in Parkinson's disease.

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Department of Neurology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, One Gustave L. Levy Place, New York, NY 10029, USA.


The basis of neuronal vulnerability, degeneration, and sparing in PD are unknown, but there is increasing evidence to suggest that the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) plays an important role in the pathogenesis of the disorder. In this study, we employed an immunocytochemical approach to determine if the differential expression of key UPS components in various brain regions and cells might underlie the pattern of neuronal degeneration and survival seen in PD. We showed that the ubiquitin activating enzyme (E1), ubiquitin conjugating enzyme (E2), and 26/20S proteasome alpha- and beta-subunits, are abundantly expressed in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) and in cultured dopaminergic neurons. Although the proteasome activator PA700 is expressed in the medial SNc, levels are low in the lateral region, and expression of the other proteasome activator, PA28, is near absent in the entire SNc. PA28 (but not PA700) was found to be poorly expressed in noradrenergic neurons in the locus coeruleus (LC) compared with adjacent cells in the mesencephalic nucleus. PA700 and PA28 are also poorly expressed in dopaminergic neurons compared with other cell types in culture. Inhibition of proteasomal function, generation of misfolded proteins, induction of oxidative stress or impairment of mitochondrial complex I activity, caused a compensatory upregulation in PA700 and PA28 in a variety of cells but not in dopaminergic neurons in culture. These findings are consistent with the demonstration that, in sporadic PD, proteasomal activity and levels of PA700/PA28 are reduced in the SNc but are markedly upregulated in regions/cells that are spared from the neurodegenerative process. Thus, the differential distribution and activity of proteasome activations could play a significant role in the pathogenesis of PD.

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