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Parkinson's disease (PD) is a debilitating neurodegenerative disease characterized primarily by the selective death of dopaminergic (DA) neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta of the midbrain. Although several genetic forms of PD have been identified, the precise molecular mechanisms underlying DA neuron loss in PD remain elusive. In recent years, microRNAs (miRNAs) have been recognized as potent post-transcriptional regulators of gene expression with fundamental roles in numerous biological processes. Although their role in PD pathogenesis is still a very active area of investigation, several seminal studies have contributed significantly to our understanding of the roles these small non-coding RNAs play in the disease process. Among these are studies which have demonstrated specific miRNAs that target and down-regulate the expression of PD-related genes as well as those demonstrating a reciprocal relationship in which PD-related genes act to regulate miRNA processing machinery. Concurrently, a wealth of knowledge has become available regarding the molecular mechanisms that unify the underlying etiology of genetic and sporadic PD pathogenesis, including dysregulated protein quality control by the ubiquitin-proteasome system and autophagy pathway, activation of programmed cell death, mitochondrial damage and aberrant DA neurodevelopment and maintenance. Following a discussion of the interactions between PD-related genes and miRNAs, this review highlights those studies which have elucidated the roles of these pathways in PD pathogenesis. We highlight the potential of miRNAs to serve a critical regulatory role in the implicated disease pathways, given their capacity to modulate the expression of entire families of related genes. Although few studies have directly linked miRNA regulation of these pathways to PD, a strong foundation for investigation has been laid and this area holds promise to reveal novel therapeutic targets for PD.

Original publication




Journal article


Front Mol Neurosci

Publication Date





Parkinson's disease, apoptosis, autophagy, dopaminergic neurons, iPS cells, microRNA (miRNA), mitochondria, ubiquitin-proteasome system