AsianScientist (Nov. 14, 2017) – Scientists in South Korea have identified a compound that inhibits the death of dopaminergic neurons to prevent and treat Parkinson’s disease (PD). They reported their findings in the journal Oncotarget.
PD is a typical degenerative brain disease caused by the death of dopaminergic neurons. It is more commonly diagnosed in populations aged 60 or older, and affected individuals exhibit symptoms such as tremor, stiffness, slow motion and postural instability.
In PD neurons, excessive accumulation of poly ADP-ribose (PAR) activates Apoptosis-Inducing Factor (AIF) that induces cell death, which is thought to be the root cause of PD onset. Currently, medications are being used to alleviate symptoms of PD. However, there are no government-approved drugs that can inhibit dopaminergic neuronal cell death.
In this study, a team of scientists led by Dr. Lee Yun-Il at the Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology (DGIST) have discovered a mechanism of inhibition of dopaminergic neuronal apoptosis that may be useful for preventing and treating PD. In collaboration with Professor Shin Joo-Ho and Professor Lee Yunjong from Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, the team performed high-speed mass screening method using the natural materials library of the Natural Medicine Bank of Korea Foundation.
They found that liquiritigenin, a licorice extract, induces the expression of a protein named RNF146, which removes excessively accumulated PAR and associated modified proteins using the ubiquitin proteasome system. This results in inhibition of dopamine neuronal cell death.
In addition, the research demonstrated that RNF146 protein expression regulates transcription through binding and interacting with estrogen receptors in cell and animal models, suggesting that liquiritigenin can be used as a treatment for degenerative Parkinson’s disease.
“Neuronal death is involved in a variety of signaling systems in vivo,” said Lee. “Therefore, it is essential to identify a new mechanism that is able to control the system comprehensively and we have found additional possibilities in licorice extract.”
Source: Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology; Photo: Shutterstock.
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