Publication in PNAS

A link between sugar metabolism and Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease is a common and very debilitating neurodegenerative disease. It is characterised by the accumulation of insoluble proteins and the death of certain brain cells, but it is still not known why this occurs. It was long suspected that the accumulation of molecular damage over a lifetime plays a role, but the precise nature of this damage was not known until now.

Guido Bommer’s team has just discovered a close link between the metabolism of sugars and a new type of cellular damage, which seems to play a role in certain cases of Parkinson’s disease.  During glycolysis, one of the metabolites is spontaneously converted into a highly reactive compound, cyclic 1,3-phosphoglycerate, which has never been described before and damages proteins and metabolites.

Guido Bommer’s group also found that the majority of our cells have an enzyme – called PARK7 – that can destroy this reactive compound, thereby preventing the damage from occurring. They observed that inactivation of PARK7 causes damage to accumulate in models as diverse as human cells, mice and even flies.

Some cases of Parkinson’s disease are due to genetic inactivation of the PARK7 enzyme. However, despite thousands of scientific papers published on the subject, the function of PARK7 remained unknown. These new findings offer a mechanistic explanation of how PARK7 deficiency causes Parkinson’s disease.

Reference : PNAS 119 (4) e2111338119

Source : Press release from UCLouvain

Illustration: By courtesy of the author

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