Washington: A discovery has revealed that a protein which was earlier linked to cell dysfunction and death is in fact critical for repairing breaks in DNA. The finding could lead to new treatments for Parkinson’s and other brain diseases, suggests a study.
The study published in the journal ‘Scientific Reports,’ demonstrates the role of protein- alpha-synuclein in preventing the death of neurons in brain diseases such as Parkinson’s.
The findings suggest that it may be possible to design new therapies to replace alpha-synuclein’s function or boost it in people with Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.
It also reveals that aggregates of alpha-synuclein, lewy bodies, are problematic because they pull alpha-synuclein protein out of the nucleus of brain cells.
The study examined the cells of living mice and postmortem brain tissue in humans, revealed that these proteins perform a crucial function by repairing breaks that occur along the vast strands of DNA present in the nucleus of every cell of the body.
Alpha-synuclein’s role in DNA repair may be crucial in preventing cell death. This function may be lost in brain diseases such as Parkinson’s, leading to the widespread death of neurons.
“It may be the loss of that function that’s killing that cell,” said Vivek Unni senior author of the study.
Researchers found that the alpha-synuclein protein rapidly recruited to the site of DNA damage in the neurons of mice. In addition, they found increased double-strand breaks in the DNA of human tissue and mice in which the protein was clumped together in the form of Lewy bodies in the cytoplasm surrounding the cell’s nucleus. Taken together, the results suggest that alpha-synuclein plays a crucial role in binding broken strands of DNA within the cell’s nucleus.
“This is the first time that anyone has discovered one of its functions is DNA repair,” Unni said. “That’s critical for cell survival, and it appears to be a function that’s lost in Parkinson’s disease.”