Brain Mitochondria, Aging, and Parkinson’s Disease

This paper reconsiders the role of mitochondria in aging and in Parkinson's Disease (PD). The most important risk factor for PD is aging. Alterations in mitochondrial activity are typical of aging. Mitochondrial aging is characterized by decreased oxidative phosphorylation, proteasome activity decrease, altered autophagy, and mitochondrial dysfunction. Beyond declined oxidative phosphorylation, mitochondrial dysfunction consists of a decline of beta-oxidation as well as of the Krebs cycle. Not inherited mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations are acquired over time and parallel the decrease in oxidative phosphorylation. Many of these mitochondrial alterations are also found in the PD brain specifically in the substantia nigra (SN). mtDNA deletions and development of respiratory chain deficiency in SN neurons of aged individuals as well as of individuals with PD converge towards a shared pathway, which leads to neuronal dysfunction and death. Finally, several nuclear genes that are mutated in hereditary PD are usually implicated in mitochondrial functioning to a various extent and their mutation may cause mitochondrial impairment. In conclusion, a tight link exists between mitochondria, aging, and PD.

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Authors: Mario Rango and Nereo Bresolin