Par 4: An emerging pivotal player in neuronal apoptosis and neurodegenerative disorders

Mark P. Mattson, Wenzhen Duan, Sic L. Chan, Simonetta Camandola

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Prostate apoptosis response-4 (Par-4) is a 38-kDa protein initially identified as the product of a gene upregulated in prostate tumor cells undergoing apoptosis. Par-4 contains both a death domain and a leucine zipper domain, and has been shown to interact with several proteins known to modulate apoptosis, including protein kinase Cζ, Bcl-2, and caspase-8. A rapid increase in Par-4 levels occurs in neurons undergoing apoptosis in a variety of paradigms, including trophic factor withdrawal, and exposure to oxidative and metabolic insults. Par-4, which can be induced at the translational level, acts at an early stage of the apoptotic cascade prior to caspase activation and mitochondrial dysfunction. The mechanism whereby Par-4 promotes apoptosis may involve inhibition of the antiapoptotic transcription factor NF-κB and suppression of Bcl-2 expression and/or function. Studies of postmortem tissues from patients and animal models of neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Huntington's diseases, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and HIV encephalitis, have documented increased levels of Par-4 in vulnerable neurons. Manipulations that block Par-4 expression or function prevent neuronal cell death in models of each disorder, suggesting a critical role for Par-4 in the neurodegenerative process Interestingly, Par-4 levels rapidly increase in synaptic terminals following various insults, and such local increases in Par-4 levels appear to play important roles in synaptic dysfunction and degeneration. A better understanding of the molecular and cellular biology of Par-4 will help clarify mechanisms of neuronal apoptosis, and may lead to the development of novel preventative and therapeutic strategies for neurodegenerative disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-30
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Molecular Neuroscience
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Alzheimer's
  • Bcl-2
  • Caspase
  • Hippocampus
  • Ischemia
  • NF-κB
  • Oxidative stress
  • Parkinson's

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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