Intracellular signalling pathways in dopamine cell death and axonal degeneration

Prog Brain Res. 2010;183:79-97. doi: 10.1016/S0079-6123(10)83005-5.


The pathways of programmed cell death (PCD) are now understood in extraordinary detail at the molecular level. Although much evidence suggests that they are likely to play a role in Parkinson's disease (PD), the precise nature of that role remains unknown. Two pathways of cell death that are especially well characterized are cyclin-dependent kinase 5-mediated phosphorylation of myocyte enhancer factor 2 and the mitogen-activated protein kinase signalling cascade. Although blockade of these pathways in animals has achieved a truly remarkable degree of neuroprotection of the neuron cell soma, it has not achieved protection of axons. Thus, there is a need to explore beyond the canonical pathways of PCD and investigate mechanisms of axon destruction. We also need to move beyond the narrow classic concept that the mechanisms of PCD are activated exclusively 'downstream', following cellular injury. Studies in the genetics of PD suggest that in some forms of the disease, activation may be an early 'upstream' event. Additionally, recent observations suggest that cell death in some contexts may not be initiated by injury, but instead by a failure of intrinsic cell survival signalling. These new points of view offer new opportunities for molecular targeting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / genetics*
  • Axons / pathology
  • Axons / physiology
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism
  • Leucine-Rich Repeat Serine-Threonine Protein Kinase-2
  • Nerve Degeneration / metabolism
  • Nerve Degeneration / pathology
  • Neurons / pathology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Oncogene Proteins / metabolism
  • Parkinson Disease / metabolism*
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology*
  • Protein Deglycase DJ-1
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / genetics*


  • Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Oncogene Proteins
  • Protein Kinases
  • LRRK2 protein, human
  • Leucine-Rich Repeat Serine-Threonine Protein Kinase-2
  • PTEN-induced putative kinase
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • PARK7 protein, human
  • Protein Deglycase DJ-1
  • Dopamine