Nurrl Gene and Parkinson’s Disease

Dr. Wei-Dong Le, M.D., Ph.D.
Baylor College of Medicine, Dept. of Neurology

Why do primarily substantia nigra neurons lose dopamine (DA) both with aging and due to such insults as PD and the neurotoxic MPTP? Dr. Wei-Dong Le and his Baylor (Houston) colleagues think a gene called Nurrl may have a role. Nurrl is absolutely required for induction and development of these cells and, is found to be reduced in aging animals who were also more vulnerable to MPTP. These results suggest that Nurrl and/or its product is a critical survival factor for these neurons and that once the gene's product and function are known, we may better understand the highly selective cell loss that characterizes PD.