Endoplasmic reticulum dysfunction--a common denominator for cell injury in acute and degenerative diseases of the brain?
Various physiological, biochemical and molecular biological disturbances have been put forward as mediators of neuronal cell injury in acute and chronic pathological states of the brain such as ischemia, epileptic seizures and Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease. These include over-activation of glutamate receptors, a rise in cytoplasmic calcium activity and mitochondrial dysfunction. The possible involvement of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) dysfunction in this process has been largely neglected until recently, although the ER plays a central role in important cell functions. Not only is the ER involved in the control of cellular calcium homeostasis, it is also the subcellular compartment in which the folding and processing of membrane and secretory proteins takes place. The fact that blocking of these processes is sufficient to cause cell damage indicates that they are crucial for normal cell functioning. This review presents evidence that ER function is disturbed in many acute and chronic diseases of the brain. The complex processes taken place in this subcellular compartment are however, affected in different ways in various disorders; whereas the ER-associated degradation of misfolded proteins is affected in Parkinson's disease, it is the unfolded protein response which is down-regulated in Alzheimer's disease and the ER calcium homeostasis that is disturbed in ischemia. Studying the consequences of the observed deteriorations of ER function and identifying the mechanisms causing ER dysfunction in these pathological states of the brain will help to elucidate whether neurodegeneration is indeed caused by these disturbances, and will help to facilitate the search for drugs capable of blocking the pathological process directly at an early stage.
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