Brain tissue may be able to call upon a professional organizer should they find themselves hoarding rubbish. This organizer, like the junk it clears away, works in the molecular scale, but its effects could be momentous. By eliminating misfolded proteins, the organizer, called Nrf2, can avoid the accumulation of toxic clumps that lead to Parkinson’ s i9000 disease (PD) and other neurological conditions.

Nrf2, which stands for nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor, is certainly itself a protein. It has been known to coordinate certain facets of gene expression, but beyond that, it is also something of the neat freak— as scientists based at the Gladstone Institutes recently discovered.

When these scientists triggered Nfr2 in cellular models of PD, they found they could reduce levels of disease-causing proteins to a normal, healthful range. By restoring protein homeostasis, the scientists avoided the buildup of PD-associated neuron toxicity.

Details of the work appeared December 27 in the Proceedings from the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), in an article titled, “ Nrf2 Mitigates LRRK2- and α -Synuclein– Caused Neurodegeneration by Modulating Proteostasis. ” LRRK2, or leucine-rich repeat kinase 2, and α -synuclein may take place in mutated forms that are associated with increased risks associated with neurodegenerative diseases.

The PNAS article identifies how the scientists used both rat neurons and human being neurons created from induced pluripotent stem cells. It also information how the scientists programmed the neurons to express Nrf2 plus either mutant LRRK2 or α -synuclein.

Using an one-of-a-kind robotic microscope developed by Steven Finkbeiner’s lab, the researchers tagged and tracked individual neurons with time to monitor their protein levels and overall health. They got thousands of images of the cells over the course of a week, measuring the particular development and demise of each one.

“ Using a longitudinal imaging platform, we visualized the as well as location of mutant LRRK2 and α -synuclein within living neurons at the single-cell level, ” wrote the particular authors of the study. “ Nrf2 reduced PD-associated proteins toxicity by a cell-autonomous mechanism that was time-dependent. ”

Essentially, the Gladstone scientists found that Nrf2 turns on several housecleaning mechanisms in the cell to remove extra LRRK2 and α -synuclein. This action, the scientists stressed was “ cell autonomous, ” or restricted to the particular mutated cells. It was distinct from the other action related to Nrf2, a cell-nonautonomous activation of a gene expression system known to mitigate reactive oxygen species.

The newest, junk-clearing action appears to depend on two key mechanisms. Every mechanism handles different misfolded proteins.

“ Nrf2 decreased steady-state levels of α -synuclein in part simply by increasing α -synuclein degradation, ” the PNAS write-up indicated. “ In contrast, Nrf2 sequestered misfolded diffuse LRRK2 into more insoluble and homogeneous inclusion bodies. ”

For mutant LRRK2, Nrf2 drove the particular protein to gather into incidental clumps that can remain in the particular cell without damaging it. For α -synuclein, Nrf2 accelerated the breakdown and clearance of the protein, decreasing its levels in the cell.

“I are very enthusiastic about this strategy for treating neurodegenerative diseases, inch said Steven Finkbeiner, M. D., Ph. D., the senior investigator at Gladstone and the senior author from the PNAS paper. “We’ve tested Nrf2 in models of Huntington’s disease, PD, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), in fact it is the most protective thing we’ve ever found. Based on the degree and the breadth of the effect, we really want to understand Nrf2 and its role in protein regulation better. ”

The scientists say that Nrf2 itself may be hard to target with a drug because it is involved in so many cellular procedures, so they are now focusing on some of its downstream effects: “ By identifying the stress response strategies activated by Nrf2, we also highlight endogenous coping responses that might be therapeutically bolstered to treat PD. ” The scientists hope to determine other players in the protein regulation pathway that connect to Nrf2 to improve cell health and that may be easier to drug.