Immortalized Parkinson's disease lymphocytes have enhanced mitochondrial respiratory activity
The identification of the etiologies and pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease (PD) should play an important role in enabling the development of novel treatment strategies to prevent or slow the progression of the disease. The last few years have seen enormous progress in this respect. Abnormalities of mitochondrial function and increased free radical mediated damage were described in post mortem PD brain before the first gene mutations causing familial PD were published. Several genetic causes are now known to induce loss of dopaminergic cells and parkinsonism, and study of the mechanisms by which these mutations produce this effect has provided important insights into the pathogenesis of PD and confirmed mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress pathways as central to PD pathogenesis. Abnormalities of protein metabolism including protein mis-folding and aggregation are also crucial to the pathology of PD. Genetic causes of PD have specifically highlighted the importance of mitochondrial dysfunction to PD: PINK1, parkin, DJ-1 and most recently alpha-synuclein proteins have been shown to localise to mitochondria and influence function. The turnover of mitochondria by autophagy (mitophagy) has also become a focus of attention. This review summarises recent discoveries in the contribution of mitochondrial abnormalities to PD etiology and pathogenesis.