Progress and Prospects in Parkinson's Research/Causes/Inheritance

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Diagnosed PD cases can be divided into Sporadic and Familial categories. The second of these categories refers to instances where an onset Mendelianpattern is established or a link to a known PD related mutation has occurred.

The first genetic link to PD was published by Nussbaum et al (1997) [1] and this precipitated an avalanche of similar findings. Currently familial causes are widely quoted as accounting for 5% of diagnosed cases, yet genetic studies account for over 50% of PD research. The reason for this imbalance is:-

  • Research is producing more and more genetic links with the disease and 5% is probably a considerable underestimate.
  • There are indications that many patients must first have a genetic predilection towards the disease which is then triggered by some external factor.
  • If a precursor genetic pattern(s) could be established this might provide a biomarker for the disease.
  • Familial cases provide a useful starting point for elucidating the subsequent course of the disease.
  • Genetic mutations can be inducted into laboratory animals. Breeding transgenic strains of mice, rats, zebra fish, nematode worms and yeast have been produced successfully to enable aspects of the disease to be studied and the effects of new therapies to be tested.

Gene association studies

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Gene association studies is a technique in widespread use by genetic researchers, who take a cohort of patients with a diagnosed disease and compare their genes with a matching (control) cohort of people without the disease. The control cohort is generally matched for age, gender and ethnicity.

Statistical analysis of the results can identify individual genes, which are deemed to influence the onset of the disease. Further analysis can then isolate the specific SNP and Genotype responsible for the mutation. The results are published in a peer-reviewed journal and can form the basis for further research.

The results of such studies of PD are sometimes questionable because:-

  • They are not always borne out by repeat studies.
  • The cohorts chosen are small or ill-matched.
  • The control cohort may include undiagnosed PD cases such as those that are in the [[Wikipedia:Prodromeprodromal|Prodromeprodromal]] or presymptomatic stage of the disease.
  • The PD cohort may contain misdiagnosed cases.
  • A single mutation could produce a metabolic chain of events and compromise otherwise healthy genes.

Nevertheless the metaanalysis of repeat studies may identify significant genes.

Other complicating factors are:-

  • Many results identify intergenic SNPs as the source of the mutation and the regulatory role of intergenic material in gene expression is still being elucidated.
  • Many results show negative results i.e. the mutation reduces the risk of PD.
  • Many results show contradictory markers for ethnicity i.e. a SNP may lower the risk for one ethnic group and raise it for another.

A number of public domain web sites are available which summarise the results of PD genetic research to date.


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PD-Gene [2] is a database for Parkinson’s Disease gene association studies maintained by the Max Planck Institute in Berlin in conjunction with the Michael J. Fox Foundation and the Alzheimer Research Forum.

As of October 2012 it is the distillation of 876 studies and identifies 914 PD-related genes and 3443 SNPs. Search arguments are gene, protein, polymorphism, study and keyword, or one can drill down through the sequence chromosome/ gene/ SNP. Chromosome diagrams show the locus of each identified gene.

Parkinson Disease Mutation Database

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This database, [3] which is curated by Karen Nuytemans, PhD. of the Neurogenerative Brain Diseases Group, Flanders Institute for Biotechnology and the University of Antwerp, aims “to collect all known mutations and non-pathogenic coding variations in the genes related to Parkinson disease”.

The contents summarised at October 2012 are:-

1 PINK1 28 65 80 125
1 PARK7 6 10 17 18
4 SNCA 25 50 1 1
6 PARK7 122 607 65 212
12 LRRK2 6 940 68 107

Parkinson’s Disease Mutations Database

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This is curated by the [4]Parkinson's Institute of the Leiden University Medical Centre, Germany. In order to use the service it is necessary to download the LOVD which stands for Leiden Open (source) Variation Database.

The gene variations currently (October 2012) available are for the LRRK2. PARK11, PARK2, PARK7, PINK1 and SNCA genes.

Mutation Database for Parkinson’s Disease

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This is curated by the Institute for Infocomm Research [5] in Singapore. In August 2011 it contained 2,391 entries for 202 genes extracted from 576 publications. The contents of the web site are:-

Function Contents
Browse Alphabetic list of gene symbols

Chromosome location of the gene

Entry point to variation report

Links to Entrez Gene and SWISS-PROT database

Search Search by Gene symbol (including partial name), aliases, Gene ID, SWISS-PROT accession number

Search by Geographic regions of the study

Search by Author's name of the primary reference

Summary About the gene

Number of records in MDPD

Number of variants reported in SWISS-PROT database

Link to OMIM database

Variation report List of Variation Impact

List of Variation Type

List of studied country

Variation sequence (position in amino acid and nucleic acid level)

List of PubMed reference for the gene

Entre to individual record covering sample size, age, gender, variation, impact, geographic, and comments

Number of variants reported in SWISS-PROT database

Link to OMIM database

Comparison Comparing genetic data from any two geography regions
Statistics Key statistics in MDPD

Top 10 genes with most literature reports

Top 10 genes with most reported negative variants

Top 10 countries / regions with most studies done

Where is genetic research going?

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Genetic research in relation to the disease is still in its infancy and currently raises more questions than answers. It is a reasonable assumption that gene association studies will throw up many more PD-related SNPs and each one brings with it the questions - what activates the SNP and what happens consequentially inside the affected cell to invoke PD? The observed variable effects of ethnicity and recent work on Alzheimer’s Disease indicate that single SNPs may not work in isolation and that different SNP permutations may have different outcomes. There are also indications that intergenic SNPs may influence the workings of otherwise healthy genes. This accords with observation that Parkinson’s Disease is a very personalised complaint. No two patients exhibit the same mix of symptoms or react to medication in the same way. Patterns of symptoms associated with patterns of SNPs may emerge and, as gene sequencing becomes economical and commonplace, genetic profiling can be expected to become a useful tool for diagnosis and prescription.

The following table summarises the current state of kmowledge of the PARKxx series of mutations.

PARK1/4 SNCA 4q21 Parkinsonism with common dementia Lewy bodies
PARK2 PARKIN 6q25-q27 Early onset slowly progressing Parkinsonism Lewy bodies
PARK3 Unknown 2p13 Late onset Parkinsonism Lewy bodies
PARK5 UCHL1 4p14 Late onset Parkinsonism Unknown
PARK6 PINK1 1p35-p36 Early onset slow progressing Parkinsonism One case exhibiting Lewy bodies
PARK7 DJ1 1p36 Early onset Parkinsonism Unknown
PARK8 LRRK2 12q12 Late onset Parkinsonism Lewy bodies usually
PARK9 ATP13A2 1p36 Early onset Parkinsonism with Kufor-Rakh syndrome Unknown
PARK10 Unknown 1p32 Unclear Unknown
PARK11 GIGYF2 2q36-q37 Late onset Parkinsonism Unknown
PARK12 Unknown Xq Unclear Unknown
PARK13 Omi/HTRA2 2p13 Unclear Unknown
PARK14 PLA2G6 22q13.1 Parkinsonism with additional features Lewy bodies
PARK15 FBX07 22q12-q13 Early onset Parkinsonism Unknown
PARK16 Unknown 1q32 Late onset Parkinsonism Unknown
FTDP-17 MAPT 17q21. Dementia sometimes Parkinsonism Neurofibrillary tangles
SCA2 Ataxin2 22q12-q13 Usually ataxia sometimes Parkinsonism Unknown
SCA2 Ataxin3 12q24.1 Usually ataxia sometimes Parkinsonism Unknown
Gaucher's locus GBa 1q21. Late onset Parkinsonism Lewy bodies

Further reading

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Kruger, Rejko (2004) Parkinson's Disease Genetic Types.

Nuytemanns, Karen; Theuns, Jessie: Cruts, Marc and Van Broeckhoven. (2010) Hum. Mut. 31 (7) 763-780. Genetic Etiology of Parkinson Disease associated with mutations in the SNCA, PARK2, PINK1, PARK7 and LRRK2 genes : a mutation update.

Hardy, John (2010) Neuron 68 (2) 201-206 Genetic Analysis of Pathways to Parkinson Disease

Bekris, Lynn M.; Mata, Ignacio F. and Zabetian, Cyrus P. (2010) J. Geriatr. Psychiatry Neurol. 23 (4) 234 -242 The Genetics of Parkinson Disease

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Causes > Inheritance

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  1. Nussbaum, R.L.; Polymeropoulos, M.H.; Lavedan, C.; Leroy, E.; Ide, S.E.; Dehejia, A.; Dutra, A.; Pike, B.; Root, H.; Rubenstein, J.; Boyer, R.; Stenroos, E.S.; Chandrasekharappa, S.; Athanassiadou, A.; Papapetropoulos, T.; Johnson, W.G.; Lazzarini, A.M.; Duvoisin; R.C.; Di Iorio, G.; and Golbe, LI. (1997) Science ;276 (5321):2045-7. Mutation in the alpha-synuclein gene identified in families with Parkinson's disease.]