Journal Article

Genetics of Parkinson's Disease

Robert L. Nussbaum and Mihael H. Polymeropoulos

in Human Molecular Genetics

Volume 6, issue 10, pages 1687-1691
Published in print September 1997 | ISSN: 0964-6906
Published online September 1997 | e-ISSN: 1460-2083 | DOI:
Genetics of Parkinson's Disease

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For the past 40 years, research into Parkinson's disease (PD) has been predominantly the province of epidemiologists interested in pursuing the connection between the disease and environmental factors such as viral infection or neurotoxins. Hereditary influences were actually discounted because of a high monozygotic twin discordance rate found in studies that were later shown to be inadequate and inconclusive. There has recently been a resurgence of interest in investigating hereditary factors in PD when it became more and more apparent that a positive family history was a major risk factor for the disease. Meanwhile, it also became increasingly apparent from neuropathological studies that the common, idiopathic form of Parkinson's disease had, in fact, a pathological correlate, i.e., the existence of Lewy bodies, an eosinophilic cytoplasmic inclusion body, distributed diffusely throughout the substnatia nigra, hypothalamus, hippocampus, autonomic ganglia and olfactory tracts. Although candidate gene approaches to linkage in PD families have not been rewarding, a genome wide scan mapped PD to 4q21–23 in one large family with PD with diffuse Lewy bodies, where a candidate gene, α-synuclein, resides. This gene encodes a presynaptic protein of which a peptide fragment is known to be a constituent of Alzheimer's disease plaques. The identification of a missense mutation in the α-synuclein gene in four independent PD families suggests that at least some fraction of familial PD with diffuse Lewy bodies is the result of an abnormal protein that interferes with normal protein degradation leading to the development of inclusions and ultimately neuronal cell death. There may be common pathogenetic mechanisms involved in α-synuclein mutations in PD and β-amyloid and presenilin gene mutations in Alzheimer's disease.

Journal Article.  5135 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Genetics and Genomics

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