Oxidative stress is a primary villain in a host of diseases that range from cancer and heart failure to Alzheimer's disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Parkinson's disease. Now, scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have found that blocking the interaction of a critical enzyme may counteract the destruction of neurons associated with these neurodegenerative diseases, suggesting a potential new target for drug development.
These findings appear in the January 11, 2013 edition of The Journal of Biological Chemistry.
During periods of cellular stress, such as exposure to UV radiation, the number of highly reactive oxygen-containing molecules can increase in cells, resulting in serious damage. However, relatively little is known about the role played in this process by a number of stress-related enzymes.
In the new study, the TSRI team led by Professor Philip LoGrasso focused on an enzyme known as c-jun-N-terminal kinase (JNK). Under stress, JNK migrates to the mitochondria, the part of the cell that generates chemical energy and is involved in cell growth and death. That migration, coupled with JNK activation, is associated with a number of serious health issues, including mitochondrial dysfunction, which has long been known to contribute to neuronal death in Parkinson's disease.