All Roads Lead to Rome: Different Molecular Players Converge to Common Toxic Pathways in Neurodegeneration

Cells. 2021 Sep 16;10(9):2438. doi: 10.3390/cells10092438.


Multiple neurodegenerative diseases (NDDs) such as Alzheimer's disease (AD), Parkinson's disease (PD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Huntington's disease (HD) are being suggested to have common cellular and molecular pathological mechanisms, characterized mainly by protein misfolding and aggregation. These large inclusions, most likely, represent an end stage of a molecular cascade; however, the soluble misfolded proteins, which take part in earlier steps of this cascade, are the more toxic players. These pathological proteins, which characterize each specific disease, lead to the selective vulnerability of different neurons, likely resulting from a combination of different intracellular mechanisms, including mitochondrial dysfunction, ER stress, proteasome inhibition, excitotoxicity, oxidative damage, defects in nucleocytoplasmic transport, defective axonal transport and neuroinflammation. Damage within these neurons is enhanced by damage from the nonneuronal cells, via inflammatory processes that accelerate the progression of these diseases. In this review, while acknowledging the hallmark proteins which characterize the most common NDDs; we place specific focus on the common overlapping mechanisms leading to disease pathology despite these different molecular players and discuss how this convergence may occur, with the ultimate hope that therapies effective in one disease may successfully translate to another.

Keywords: ALS; Alzheimer’s diseases; Huntington’s disease; Parkinson’s diseases; misfolded proteins; neurodegenerative diseases; proteostasis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Active Transport, Cell Nucleus*
  • Animals
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress*
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / pathology*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / etiology
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / pathology*
  • Oxidative Stress*