Protein degradation pathways in Parkinson's disease: Curse or blessing

Darius Ebrahimi-Fakhari, Lara Wahlster, Pamela J. McLean

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

161 Scopus citations


Protein misfolding, aggregation and deposition are common disease mechanisms in many neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson's disease (PD). Accumulation of damaged or abnormally modified proteins may lead to perturbed cellular function and eventually to cell death. Thus, neurons rely on elaborated pathways of protein quality control and removal to maintain intracellular protein homeostasis. Molecular chaperones, the ubiquitin- proteasome system (UPS) and the autophagy-lysosomal pathway (ALP) are critical pathways that mediate the refolding or removal of abnormal proteins. The successive failure of these protein degradation pathways, as a cause or consequence of early pathological alterations in vulnerable neurons at risk, may present a key step in the pathological cascade that leads to spreading neurodegeneration. A growing number of studies in disease models and patients have implicated dysfunction of the UPS and ALP in the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease and related disorders. Deciphering the exact mechanism by which the different proteolytic systems contribute to the elimination of pathogenic proteins, like α-synuclein, is therefore of paramount importance. We herein review the role of protein degradation pathways in Parkinson's disease and elaborate on the different contributions of the UPS and the ALP to the clearance of altered proteins. We examine the interplay between different degradation pathways and provide a model for the role of the UPS and ALP in the evolution and progression of α-synuclein pathology. With regards to exciting recent studies we also discuss the putative potential of using protein degradation pathways as novel therapeutic targets in Parkinson's disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-172
Number of pages20
JournalActa neuropathologica
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2012


  • A-Synuclein
  • Autophagy
  • Lysosome
  • Molecular chaperones
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Ubiquitin-proteasome system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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