Proteins are susceptible to numerous non-enzymatic post-translational modifications which occur both during normal aging and in neurodegenerative states. For instance, formation of abnormal L-isoaspartyl residues arising from both the deamidation of L-asparaginyl residues and the isomerization of L-aspartyl residues is a frequent chemical modification that affects proteins. The formation of L- isoaspartyl residues in proteins alters their three-dimensional structure leading usually to a loss of function. Notably, accumulation of isomerized proteins could contribute to metabolic dysfunctions in neuronal cells during aging reducing cognitive functions in elderly patients and would eventually promote the development of neurodegenerative diseases. The protein L-isoaspartyl (D-aspartyl) methyltransferase (PIMT) is an enzyme that recognizes and repairs the abnormal L-isoaspartyl residues in proteins. Its expression appears to decline during aging which could partially explain the build up of damaged proteins in old age. In this review, we summarize recent findings, based mostly on proteomic data, regarding the formation and accumulation of proteins bearing atypical L-isoaspartyl residues as well as PIMT functions during normal aging and in some neurodegenerative diseases. The emphasis is on possible molecular mechanisms controlling PIMT expression and the ability of PIMT to repair isomerized substrates during aging. Investigation of processes regulating age-related accumulation of isomerized proteins is a promising avenue to a better understanding of aging at the protein level.
Keywords: Aging, Damaged proteins, L-isoaspartyl residues, PIMT, deamidation, L-asparaginyl residues, L-aspartyl residues, neurodegenerative diseases, lipid peroxidation, oxidation, glycation, isomerization, racemization, A-crystallin, protein kinase A (PKA), fibronectin, v3-integrin binding, monomeric enzyme, alanine, proteomic analysis, immunobloting, brain cytosol, hemodialysis fluid, cerebrospinal fluid, amniotic fluid, methylation, cortex, hippocampus, hypothalamus, striatum, immunochemical analysis, thalamus, amygdala, methamphetamine, epilepsy, cerebellum, schizophrenia, Huntington's disease, methyltransferase, synaptosomes, synuclein, Parkinson's disease, synuclein fibrils, Lewy bodies, immunohistochemistry, immunoreactivity, lymphocytes, methyl acceptor proteins, tubulin, insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I), estradiol, valproic acid, lysosomes, proteasomal activity, Alzheimer's disease, dementia, intraneuronal neurofibrillary tangles, amyloid (A) peptide, autopsy, cortical neuritic plaques, amyloid plaques