The sour side of neurodegenerative disorders: the effects of protein glycation

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Neurodegenerative diseases are associated with the misfolding and deposition of specific proteins, either intra- or extracellularly in the nervous system. Although familial mutations play an important role in protein misfolding and aggregation, the majority of cases of neurodegenerative diseases are sporadic, suggesting that other factors must contribute to the onset and progression of these disorders. Post-translational modifications are known to influence protein structure and function. Some of these modifications might affect proteins in detrimental ways and lead to their misfolding and accumulation. Reducing sugars play important roles in modifying proteins, forming advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) in a non-enzymatic process named glycation. Several proteins linked to neurodegenerative diseases, such as amyloid β, tau, prions and transthyretin, were found to be glycated in patients, and this is thought to be associated with increased protein stability through the formation of crosslinks that stabilize protein aggregates. Moreover, glycation may be responsible, via the receptor for AGE (RAGE), for an increase in oxidative stress and inflammation through the formation of reactive oxygen species and the induction of NF-κB. Therefore, it is essential to unravel the molecular mechanisms underlying protein glycation to understand their role in neurodegeneration. Here, we reviewed the role of protein glycation in the major neurodegenerative disorders and highlight the potential value of protein glycation as a biomarker or target for therapeutic intervention.

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