Researchers at the University of Missouri School of Medicine have provided new insight into the recent NIH findings that demonstrate the link between Parkinson’s disease and two particular pesticides – rotenone and paraquat.
They have been able to unravel the molecular dysfunction that occurs when proteins are exposed to environmental toxins.
“This study provides the evidence that oxidative stress, possibly due to sustained exposure to environmental toxins, may serve as a primary cause of Parkinson’s,” said Zezong Gu, assistant professor of pathology and anatomical sciences.
“This helps us begin to unveil why many people, such as farmers exposed to pesticides, have an increased incidence of the disease,” he explained.
Scientists previously understood that Parkinson’s is associated with oxidative stress, which is when electronically unstable atoms or molecules damage cells.
The MU study yields more specific information about how oxidative stress causes parkin, a protein responsible for regulating other proteins, to malfunction.
Gu and his Burnham colleagues invented a new antibody that allowed them to detect how oxidative stress affected proteins when exposed to a variety of environmental toxins, such as the pesticide rotenone.
They then specifically demonstrated how oxidative stress caused parkin proteins to cluster together and malfunction, rather than performing normally by cleaning up damaged proteins.
“This whole process progresses into Parkinson’s disease,” added Gu.
The study was published in the journal Molecular Neurodegeneration.