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Microtubule: A Common Target For Parkin And Parkinson’s Disease Toxins

Jian Feng

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Parkinson’s disease (PD) is characterized by the selective loss of nigral dopaminergic (DA) neurons, which have long axons enriched with microtubules. Depolymerization of microtubules by PD toxins such as rotenone disrupts vesicular transport. The ensuing accumulation of vesicles in the cell body leads to increased cytosolic concentration of dopamine due to leakage of the vesicles. Elevated oxidative stress induced by dopamine oxidation may thus trigger the selective demise of DA neurons. Many strategies have been developed to protect DA neurons by stabilizing microtubules either directly or through intracellular signaling cascades. On the other hand, parkin, one of the most frequently mutated genes in PD, encodes for a protein-ubiquitin E3 ligase that strongly binds to microtubules. Parkin stabilizes microtubules through three domains that provide strong and independent interactions with tubulin and microtubules. These interactions anchor parkin on microtubules and may facilitate its E3 ligase activity on misfolded proteins transported along microtubules. Thus, parkin and rotenone, two prominent genetic and environmental factors linked to PD, act in an opposing manner on the same molecular target in the cell, microtubules, whose destruction underlies the selective vulnerability of dopaminergic neurons.