Parkinson disease (PD) is a multifactorial neurodegenerative disorder, the etiology of which remains largely unknown. Progressive impairment of voluntary motor control, which represents the primary clinical feature of the disease, is caused by a loss of midbrain substantia nigra dopamine (DA) neurons. We present here a synthetic overview of cell-autonomous mechanisms that are likely to participate in DA cell death in both sporadic and inherited forms of the disease. In particular, we describe how damage to vulnerable DA neurons may arise from cellular disturbances produced by protein misfolding and aggregation, disruption of autophagic catabolism, endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, or loss of calcium homeostasis. Where pertinent, we show how these mechanisms may mutually cooperate to promote neuronal death.
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