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      Unraveling protein misfolding diseases using model systems

      1 , 1 , * , 2
      Future Science OA
      Future Science Ltd

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          Experimental model systems have long been used to probe the causes, consequences and mechanisms of pathology leading to human disease. Ideally, such information can be exploited to inform the development of therapeutic strategies or treatments to combat disease progression. In the case of protein misfolding diseases, a wide range of model systems have been developed to investigate different aspects of disorders including Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease as well as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Utility of these systems broadly correlates with evolutionary complexity: small animal models such as rodents and the fruit fly are appropriate for pharmacological modeling and cognitive/behavioral assessment, the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans allows analysis of tissue-specific disease features, and unicellular organisms such as the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and the bacterium Escherichia coli are ideal for molecular studies. In this chapter, we highlight key advances in our understanding of protein misfolding/unfolding disease provided by model systems.

          Most cited references58

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          Alpha-synuclein blocks ER-Golgi traffic and Rab1 rescues neuron loss in Parkinson's models.

          Alpha-synuclein (alphaSyn) misfolding is associated with several devastating neurodegenerative disorders, including Parkinson's disease (PD). In yeast cells and in neurons alphaSyn accumulation is cytotoxic, but little is known about its normal function or pathobiology. The earliest defect following alphaSyn expression in yeast was a block in endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-to-Golgi vesicular trafficking. In a genomewide screen, the largest class of toxicity modifiers were proteins functioning at this same step, including the Rab guanosine triphosphatase Ypt1p, which associated with cytoplasmic alphaSyn inclusions. Elevated expression of Rab1, the mammalian YPT1 homolog, protected against alphaSyn-induced dopaminergic neuron loss in animal models of PD. Thus, synucleinopathies may result from disruptions in basic cellular functions that interface with the unique biology of particular neurons to make them especially vulnerable.
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            Modulation of neurodegeneration by molecular chaperones.

            Many neurodegenerative disorders are characterized by conformational changes in proteins that result in misfolding, aggregation and intra- or extra-neuronal accumulation of amyloid fibrils. Molecular chaperones provide a first line of defence against misfolded, aggregation-prone proteins and are among the most potent suppressors of neurodegeneration known for animal models of human disease. Recent studies have investigated the role of molecular chaperones in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and polyglutamine diseases. We propose that molecular chaperones are neuroprotective because of their ability to modulate the earliest aberrant protein interactions that trigger pathogenic cascades. A detailed understanding of the molecular basis of chaperone-mediated protection against neurodegeneration might lead to the development of therapies for neurodegenerative disorders that are associated with protein misfolding and aggregation.
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              Identification and rescue of α-synuclein toxicity in Parkinson patient-derived neurons.

              The induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell field holds promise for in vitro disease modeling. However, identifying innate cellular pathologies, particularly for age-related neurodegenerative diseases, has been challenging. Here, we exploited mutation correction of iPS cells and conserved proteotoxic mechanisms from yeast to humans to discover and reverse phenotypic responses to α-synuclein (αsyn), a key protein involved in Parkinson's disease (PD). We generated cortical neurons from iPS cells of patients harboring αsyn mutations, who are at high risk of developing PD dementia. Genetic modifiers from unbiased screens in a yeast model of αsyn toxicity led to identification of early pathogenic phenotypes in patient neurons. These included nitrosative stress, accumulation of endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-associated degradation substrates, and ER stress. A small molecule identified in a yeast screen (NAB2), and the ubiquitin ligase Nedd4 it affects, reversed pathologic phenotypes in these neurons.

                Author and article information

                Future Sci OA
                Future Sci OA
                Future Science OA
                Future Science Ltd (London, UK )
                September 2015
                01 September 2015
                : 1
                : 2
                : FSO41
                [1 ]University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Houston, TX 77030, USA
                [2 ]Department of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics, University of Texas Medical School, Houston, TX 77030, USA
                Author notes
                *Author for correspondence: kevin.a.morano@ 123456uth.tmc.edu

                Authors contributed equally

                © KA Morano

                This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License

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