The cellular abnormalities in Parkinson's disease (PD) include mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative damage, which are probably induced by both genetic predisposition and environmental factors. Mitochondrial dysfunction has long been implicated in the pathogenesis of PD. The recent discovery of genes associated with the etiology of familial PD has emphasized the role of mitochondrial dysfunction in PD. The discovery and increasing knowledge of the function of PINK1 and parkin, which are associated with the mitochondria, have also enhanced the understanding of cellular functions. The PINK1-parkin pathway is associated with quality control of the mitochondria, as determined in cultured cells treated with the mitochondrial uncoupler carbonyl cyanide m-chlorophenylhydrazone (CCCP), which causes mitochondrial depolarization. To date, the use of mitochondrial toxins, for example, 1-methyl-4-phynyl- tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) and CCCP, has contributed to our understanding of PD. We review how these toxins and familial PD gene products are associated with and have enhanced our understanding of the role of mitochondrial dysfunction in PD. © 2011 Shigeto Sato and Nobutaka Hattori.
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