Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disease that affects 1% of the population aged 65 and over and is the second most common neurodegenerative disease next to Alzheimer’s disease. Interneuronal proteinaceous inclusions called Lewy bodies (LB) and a selective degeneration of dopaminergic neurons of the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNPC) are the main features of PD pathology. The most common clinical manifestations are rigidity, tremor, bradykinesia, postural instability, sleep disorders, alterations in gait, smell, memory, and dementia. Genetic and environmental factors are involved in PD, and, recently, oxidative stress, proteasome-mediated protein degradation, and inflammation have acquired relevance as major mechanisms of neuronal dysfunction. Increased levels of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species in the brain contribute to greater vulnerability of proteins to nitro-oxidative modification and to greater degrees of aggregation. These protein aggregates contain a variety of proteins of which α-synuclein appears to be the main structural component. Interestingly, α-synuclein can be secreted by neuronal cells and may lead the initiation and the maintenance of inflammatory events through the activation of microglia, which contributes to dopaminergic neuron depletion. New evidence also suggests that PD may be the result of an autoimmune response in which the immune cells recognize the neurons as foreign elements and would act against them, causing their death.
Part of the book: Physiology and Pathology of Immunology