You remember that in 2016, a group of scientists of Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, found that in ALS, TDP-43 is mislocated in the mitochondria. TDP-43 is a protein which is involved in 95% of ALS cases, 1/3 of Alzheimer cases and in several other neurodegenerative diseases.
But not all neurodegenerative diseases are TDP-43 proteopathies, for example Parkinson is mainly a α-synuclein proteopathy. In Parkinson the intracellular inclusions, that contain aggregates of the intrinsically disordered protein α-synuclein, are called Lewy bodies.
Now a group of scientists in Switzerland and Sweden, have found that if the action of some chaperones (molecules that process proteins, including for protein folding) is impaired, then α-synuclein tended to accumulate in the mitochondria where it aggregated, forming clumps of protein that bear a striking resemblance to Lewy bodies.
The reseachers found that six highly divergent molecular chaperones commonly recognize a canonical motif in α-synuclein, consisting of the N terminus and a segment around Tyr39, and hinder the aggregation of α-synuclein.
Specific inhibition of the interactions between α-synuclein and the chaperone HSC70 and members of the HSP90 family, including HSP90β, results in transient membrane binding and triggers a remarkable re-localization of α-synuclein to the mitochondria and concomitant formation of aggregates.
Phosphorylation of α-synuclein at Tyr39 directly impairs the interaction of α-synuclein with chaperones, thus providing a functional explanation for the role of Abelson kinase in Parkinson’s disease. One mechanism that was invoked in Parkinson is apoptotic pathway activation via Abelson (c-Abl), so Tyrosine kinase inhibitors were envisaged to treat Parkinson. This mirrors their usage to treat ALS.
The results of the European scientists establish a master regulatory mechanism of α-synuclein function and aggregation in mammalian cells, extending the functional repertoire of molecular chaperones and highlighting new perspectives for therapeutic interventions for Parkinson’s disease.
If we return to ALS and the Case Western scientists, they similarly thought that chaperones were involved in the mislocalisation of TDP-43 in mitochondria:
Considering that molecular chaperones are usually needed to unfold protein before and during import, perhaps the final localization of TDP-43 in mitochondria depends on multiple factors, including, but not limited to, TOM and TIM22 complexes, ∆ψ and chaperones.
The article about α-synuclein : https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1808-9
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