WEST LAFAYETTE – Purdue University researchers have revealed how a mutation in a protein shuts down a protective function needed to prevent the death of neurons in Parkinson’s disease. The discovery could open the door to new drug strategies in treating the disorder.
Fred Regnier, the J.J. Law Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, and Jean-Christophe Rochet, an associate professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology, led the team that discovered how protein DJ-1, is shut down by the mutation.
A substitution one link of the chain of amino acids that makes up the protein renders it unable to be activated to protect neurons from the build-up of protein that leads to the death of cells with Parkinson’s disease.
“The saying that you are only as strong as your weakest link appears to hold true in the case of the chain of amino acids that make up a protein,” said Regnier. “The magnitude of the effect of this subtle change is surprising. It can make the difference between having a disease and being healthy.”