Research highlight

Neuroscience: Parkinson’s disease and a protein called X

Nature Communications

October 22, 2014

The X protein, which is derived from the Borna disease virus and targets mitochondria, protects neurons against degeneration in a mouse model of Parkinson’s disease, reports a study published this week in Nature Communications.

Mitochondria are responsible for the supply of energy to cells and their dysfunction has been linked to many diseases, including Parkinson’s disease. Some viruses have evolved a means of optimising cellular survival in their host and mechanisms that can protect the mitochondria may be promising therapeutic agents.

Daniel Gonzalez-Dunia and colleagues investigated the protective effects of a small protein, called the X protein, from the Borna disease virus (a virus that persists in the brain of many animal species without causing damage to neurons). The authors show that the X protein is able to protect against two separate toxins that affect mitochondria in cultured neurons. They also derive a version of the X protein that can permeate cells and demonstrate that this protein protects neurons from degenerating, upon intranasal administration in an analogue of Parkinson’s disease in mice. This study suggests a potential therapy for neurodegenerative diseases; however, more research is necessary to determine if the therapy is appropriate for human disease.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms6181

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