Targeting phosphatases as the next generation of disease modifying therapeutics for Parkinson's disease

Steven P. Braithwaite, Michael Voronkov, Jeffry B. Stock, M. Maral Mouradian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Phosphorylation is a key post-translational modification for cellular signaling, and abnormalities in this process are observed in several neurodegenerative disorders. Among these disorders, Parkinson's disease (PD) is particularly intriguing as there are both genetic causes of disease that involve phosphorylation, and pathological hallmarks of disease composed of a hyperphosphorylated protein. Two of the major genes linked to PD are themselves kinases - leucine rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) and phosphatase and tensin induced homolog kinase 1 (PINK1). Mutations in LRRK2 lead to its increased kinase activity and dominantly inherited PD, while mutations in PINK1 lead to loss of function and recessive PD. A third genetic linkage to disease is α-synuclein, a protein that is heavily phosphorylated in Lewy bodies and Lewy neurites, the pathological hallmarks of PD. The phosphorylation of α-synuclein at various residues influences its aggregation, either positively or negatively, thereby impacting its central role in disease pathogenesis. Given these associations of phosphorylation with PD, modulation of this modification is an attractive therapeutic strategy. The kinases that act in these disease relevant pathways have been the primary target for such approaches. But, the development of kinase inhibitors has been complicated by the necessary specificity to retain safety, the redundancy of kinases leading to lack of efficacy, and the difficulties in overcoming the blood-brain barrier. The field of modulating phosphatases has the potential to overcome some of these issues and provide the next generation of therapeutic targets for PD. In this review, we address the phosphorylation pathways involved in PD, the kinases and issues related to their inhibition, and the evolving field of the phosphatases relevant in PD and how they may be targeted pharmacologically.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)899-906
Number of pages8
JournalNeurochemistry International
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology


  • Alpha-synucleinopathies
  • Kinases
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Neuroprotection
  • PP2A
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein aggregation
  • Protein phosphatase


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