Protein misfolding in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease: genetics and molecular mechanisms

Neurobiol Aging. 2002 Sep-Oct;23(5):957-76. doi: 10.1016/s0197-4580(02)00076-3.


The accumulation of altered proteins is a common pathogenic mechanism in several neurodegenerative disorders. A causal role of protein aggregation was originally proposed in Alzheimer's disease (AD) where extracellular deposition of beta-amyloid (Abeta) is the main neuropathological feature. It is now believed that intracellular deposition of aggregated proteins may be relevant in Parkinson's disease (PD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and polyglutamine disorders. An impairment of ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) appears directly involved in these disorders. We reviewed the results on the role of protein misfolding in AD and PD and the influence of mutations associated with these diseases on the expression of amyloidogenic proteins. Results of genetic screening of familial cases of AD and PD are summarized. In the familial AD population (70 subjects) we found several mutations of the presenilin 1 (PS1) gene with a frequency of 12.8% and one mutation in the gene encoding the protein precursor of amyloid (APP) (1.4%). One mutation of Parkin in the homozygous form and two in the heterozygous form were identified in our PD population. We also reported data obtained with synthetic peptides and other experimental models, for evaluation of the pathogenic role of mutations in terms of protein misfolding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / genetics*
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Amyloid / chemistry
  • Amyloid / metabolism
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Ligases / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Multienzyme Complexes / metabolism
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Parkinson Disease / genetics*
  • Parkinson Disease / metabolism*
  • Presenilin-1
  • Presenilin-2
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex
  • Protein Folding
  • Synucleins
  • Ubiquitin / metabolism
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases*


  • Amyloid
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • PSEN1 protein, human
  • PSEN2 protein, human
  • Presenilin-1
  • Presenilin-2
  • Synucleins
  • Ubiquitin
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases
  • parkin protein
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex
  • Ligases