Potential biomarkers and novel pharmacological targets in protein aggregation-related neurodegenerative diseases

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The aggregation of specific proteins plays a pivotal role in the etiopathogenesis of several neurodegenerative diseases (NDs). β-Amyloid (Aβ) peptide-containing plaques and intraneuronal neurofibrillary tangles composed of hyperphosphorylated protein tau are the two main neuropathological lesions in Alzheimer's disease. Meanwhile, Parkinson's disease is defined by the presence of intraneuronal inclusions (Lewy bodies), in which α-synuclein (α-syn) has been identified as a major protein component.

The current literature provides considerable insights into the mechanisms underlying oligomeric-related neurodegeneration, as well as the relationship between protein aggregation and ND, thus facilitating the development of novel putative biomarkers and/or pharmacological targets.

Recently, α-syn, tau and Aβ have been shown to interact each other or with other “pathological proteins” to form toxic heteroaggregates. These latest findings are overcoming the concept that each neurodegenerative disease is related to the misfolding of a single specific protein.

In this review, potential opportunities and pharmacological approaches targeting α-syn, tau and Aβ and their oligomeric forms are highlighted with examples from recent studies. Protein aggregation as a biomarker of NDs, in both the brain and peripheral fluids, is deeply explored. Finally, the relationship between biomarker establishment and assessment and their use as diagnostics or therapeutic targets are discussed.

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