last updated April 2013
Protecting against Parkinson’s disease
An enzyme involved in homeostasis and metabolism suppresses cell death in a fruit fly model of Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurodegenerative condition characterized by the death of neurons in the midbrain that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine. Such neurodegeneration is associated with mutations in the parkin and α-synuclein genes. In fruit flies carrying these mutations, an enzyme called glutathione S-transferase Omega 1 (GSTO1) suppresses neurodegeneration, a team of researchers led by Jeongbin Yim of Seoul National University has found1.
GSTO1 expression is suppressed in parkin mutant flies, and expression of the gene encoding a related enzyme, GST Sigma1, prevents neurodegeneration in the mutants. To determine how this occurs, Yim and his colleagues generated fruit flies with a mutated GSTO1 gene, and found that they were sensitive to a mechanism called oxidative stress, which is implicated in cell death in PD. They also found that loss of the GSTO1 gene enhanced neurodegeneration in parkin mutants, but that restoring the gene alleviated some of their symptoms.
Finally, the researchers identified the mechanism for the protective role of GSTO1 in parkin mutants: it acts on another enzyme called ATP Synthase β, which is critical for the proper function of cellular organelles called mitochondria.
“We have begun a similar line of research to see if GSTO1 could also affect other neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer's disease,” says Yim.