In the central nervous system (CNS), abnormal deposition of insoluble protein aggregates or inclusion bodies within nerve cells is commonly observed in association with several neurodegenerative diseases. The ubiquitinated protein aggregates are believed to result from malfunction or overload of the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway or from structural changes in the protein substrates which prevent their recognition and degradation by the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway. Impaired proteolysis might also contribute to the synaptic dysfunction seen early in neurodegenerative diseases because the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway is known to play a role in normal functioning of synapses. Because specificity of the ubiquitin proteasome mediated proteolysis is determined by specific ubiquitin ligases (E3s), identification of specific E3s and their allosteric modulators are likely to provide effective therapeutic targets for the treatment of several CNS disorders. Another unexplored area for the discovery of drug targets is the proteasome. Although many inhibitors of the proteasome are available, no effective drugs exist that can stimulate the proteasome. Since abnormal protein aggregation is a common feature of different neurodegenerative diseases, enhancement of proteasome activity might be an efficient way to remove the aggregates that accumulate in the brain. In this review, we discuss how the components of the ubiquitinproteasome pathway could be potential targets for therapy of CNS diseases and disorders.
Keywords: ubiquitin ligase, proteasome activator, proteolysis, neurodegenerative diseases, synaptic dysfunction, protein aggregation, neuron
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