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Unleashing the watchdog protein
Date:5/9/2013

Our structural studies show that Parkin is normally kept in check by a part of the protein that acts as a leash to restrict Parkin activity. When we made mutations in this specific 'leash' region in the protein, we found that Parkin recognized damaged mitochondria more quickly. If we can reproduce this response with a drug rather than mutations, we might be able to slow the progression of disease in Parkinson's patients."

Parkin is an enzyme in cells that attaches a small protein, ubiquitin, to other proteins to mark them for degradation. For example, when mitochondria are damaged, Parkin is switched on which leads to the clearing of the dysfunctional mitochondria. This is an important process because damaged mitochondria are a major source of cellular stress and thought to play a central role in the death of neurons in neurodegenerative diseases.

Husband and wife team, Drs. Jean-Franois Trempe and Vronique Sauv, are lead authors on the paper. Dr. Sauv led the Gehring team that used X-ray crystallography to determine the structure of Parkin. Dr. Trempe in the Fon laboratory directed the functional studies of Parkin.

"We are proud to invest in scientific excellence and to fund discovery stage research so that investigators like Dr. Gehring and Fon in Canada can test new theories and pursue promising new leads. We believe that our National Research Program plays an important role in the global search for better treatments and a cure for Parkinson's disease," says Joyce Gordon, President and CEO, Parkinson Society Canada.


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Contact: Anita Kar
anita.kar@mcgill.ca
514-398-3376
McGill University
Source:Eurekalert

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