News of the WeekCell Biology

Protein Clumps Hijack Cell's Clearance System

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Science  25 May 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5521, pp. 1467-1468
DOI: 10.1126/science.292.5521.1467a

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Summary

Parkinson's, Huntington's, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and other neurodegenerative diseases are marked by big intracellular clumps of protein that scar neurons targeted by the disease, but researchers haven't known whether these protein clumps cause neurological damage themselves or are mere byproducts of some other system gone awry. Now a study on page 1552 suggests that protein aggregates can directly damage cells by hijacking a cellular quality control mechanism, the ubiquitin-proteasome system. The work could offer an explanation for how Alzheimer's and the human cousin of "mad cow disease" kill neurons.