Sunday, March 13, 2011

Mitochondrial motility tied to neurodegenerative disease

New research suggests some details of how damaged mitochondria may be responsible for Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and aging.

Mitochondria are the energy powerhouse of the cell. They are managed and distributed via a mitochondrial transport complex involving proteins Miro and Milton which have KHC (kinesin heavy chain), EF hands, and GTPase domains. A pathway related to the functioning of the complex regulates mitochondrial motility through calcium concentration: the higher the level of cytosolic calcium, the lower the mitochondrial motility. Motility is reversibly altered as necessary to meet the energy requirements of any cell, including neurons.

Part of this same mechanism may be used by Parkinson’s genes Pink1 and Parkin to bind to the mitochondrial transport complex to permanently inhibit mitochondrial motility, thus blocking dopaminergic neurons.

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