Role of Cell Cycle Proteins in Neuronal Loss in Parkinson’s Disease

Kelly Jordan-Scuitto
Department of Pathology (Neuropathology)
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is characterized by selective loss of the pigmented dopaminergic neurons present in the substantia nigra. While the clinical symptoms of PD are well defined, the mechanisms responsible for the neuronal loss remain largely unexplained. Hypotheses abound as to the etiology of this neurodegenerative disorder and include accumulated oxidative damage, mitochondrial deficits, immune response, loss of trophic support, accumulation of dopamine, and DNA damage.

A common downstream target of many of these insults is the activation of cell cycle regulatory machinery. Since cell cycle proteins are integrally involved in determining cell survival as well as cell proliferation and differentiation, Dr. Jordan-Scuitto hypothesizes that cell cycle proteins are responsible for the changes in neuronal viability and function in neurodegenerative diseases such as PD. This basic science approach to a clinical problem may provide new molecular targets for treatment of this dementia.

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