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Sci. Signal., 7 April 2009
Vol. 2, Issue 65, p. pe21
Parkinsons Disease: To Live or Die by Autophagy
Isabella Irrcher and
David S. Park*
Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 8M5, Canada.
The identification of the molecular mechanisms underlying neuronal survival continues to be the subject of intensive research efforts as the incidence of age-related neurodegenerative diseases rises. Amid a complex mélange of environmental and genetic factors that contribute to disease manifestation, much effort has been dedicated to understanding the underlying signaling mechanisms that regulate neuronal survival. A recent study by Yang et al. sheds new light on an intracellular quality-control system that regulates the constitutive abundance of a neuronal survival factor through chaperone-mediated autophagy and links the deregulation of this pathway to Parkinsons disease. Although the primary function of autophagy in most cell types has commonly been thought to be an adaptive response to starvation, it has been proposed that proper functioning of this system is essential for neuronal survival and that its deregulation leads to neurodegeneration.