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Emory scientists contribute to study of key regulatory protein in neurodegeneration

ATLANTA--A multi-institutional team of scientists has gained important new knowledge about the regulatory role played in Alzheimer's disease by Pin1, a protein that coaxes other proteins into untwisting. The research is published in the July 31 issue of Nature.

The team of researchers, including a group from the Department of Human Genetics at Emory University School of Medicine, examined slices of brain and found an inverse relationship between the abundance of Pin1 and both the susceptibility of neurons to degenerative damage and the amount of protein tangles. They also found that mice with an artificial disruption of Pin1 develop a neurodegenerative disease that resembles Alzheimer's.

Lead authors are Drs. Yih-cherng Liou, Anyang Sun, and Kun Ping Lu from Harvard Medical School. Xiaojiang Li, PhD and Zhao-Xue Yu, PhD from Emory School of Medicine studied the degeneration in the brains of Pin1-deficient mice using electron microscopy and immunogold staining. Scientists from the University of Kentucky, the Salk Institute, and Tufts University also contributed to the study.

Scientists studying Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases resemble detectives poring over a crime scene in a mystery novel. They have identified a couple of suspicious individualsproteins that form disruptive tangles and knots in the brain. The detectives can piece together how the crime was committed, but they still have questions about some characters standing in the shadows. They want to know not only how, but why.

In Alzheimer's disease, amyloid precursor protein (APP) and tau form aggregated tangles in the brain: APP outside and between cells, tau within the neurons. "It is clear that both proteins play a role in the Alzheimer's disease mechanism, but there is some disagreement about which one is more important," says Dr. Li.

Pin1, part of a class of enzymes called prolyl isomerases, is known to regulate many proteins
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Contact: Holly Korschun
hkorsch@emory.edu
404-727-3990
Emory University Health Sciences Center
30-Jul-2003


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