Autophagy is an essential catabolic mechanism that delivers misfolded proteins and damaged organelles to the lysosome for degradation. Autophagy pathways include macroautophagy, chaperone-mediated autophagy and microautophagy, each involving different mechanisms of substrate delivery to lysosome. Defects of these pathways and the resulting accumulation of protein aggregates represent a common pathobiological feature of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer, Parkinson and Huntington disease. This review provides an overview of the role of autophagy in Parkinson’s disease (PD) by summarizing the most relevant genetic and experimental evidence showing how this process can contribute to disease pathogenesis. Given lysosomes take part in the final step of the autophagic process, the role of lysosomal defects in the impairment of autophagy and their impact on disease will also be discussed. A glance on the role of non-neuronal autophagy in the pathogenesis of PD will be included. Moreover, we will examine novel pharmacological targets and therapeutic strategies that, by boosting autophagy, may be theoretically beneficial for PD. Special attention will be focused on natural products, such as phenolic compounds, that are receiving increasing consideration due to their potential efficacy associated with low toxicity. Although many efforts have been made to elucidate autophagic process, the development of new therapeutic interventions requires a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that may lead to autophagy defects in PD and should take into account the multifactorial nature of the disease as well as the phenotypic heterogeneity of PD patients.
Keywords: α-synuclein, autophagy inducers, chaperone-mediated autophagy, glucocerebrosidase, macroautophagy,
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