Parkinsons disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder affecting nearly 3 million patients in Europe and North America, characterized by a core phenotype of motor deficits, akinesia, rigidity, postural disturbance and tremor, which is complicated by other neurological deficits during its long progression. Our knowledge about the pathophisiology of PD was limited, up to 25 years ago, to the observation of the lesion of the nigro-striatal dopamine neurons in these patients. The subjects who developed PD as a consequence of exposure to neurotoxic compounds, increased our knowledge about the pathogenesis of this disease. More recently, genetic alterations have been found in patients with PD. The function of the proteins coded by the genes involved in PD has been investigated in genetic models of this disease from invertebrate to rodents. Mutated proteins responsible for PD have been tested in vivo and in vitro, in cellular models or in artificial constructs. A wealth of important information about the function of α-synuclein, parkin, DJ-1, PINK and dardarin is available, most notably about the first two causes of familial PD discovered, α-synuclein and parkin, responsible for autosomal dominant and autosomal recessive PD, respectively. Different animal models of α-synuclein and parkin have been extensively investigated. The in vitro and in vivo studies performed in genetic models of PD have shown that the proteins involved in the pathogenesis of PD interact with one another and have multiple mechanisms of cell toxicity. From the available data, it is clear that the mechanisms leading to cell degeneration in PD are variable in the different subtypes of this disease. Neuroprotective therapies should, therefore, be multiple and tailored according to the factors involved in the different cases. In this study, we review what we have learned from the genetic models of PD and the putative strategies to be tested in the near future.
Keywords: α-Synuclein, parkin, DJ-1, PTEN, dardarin, mitochondrial dysfunction, protein aggregation, glial dysfunction, motor behaviour, dopamine neurons
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