A unifying feature of neurodegenerative diseases is the abnormal accumulation and processing of mutant or damaged intra- and extracellular proteins; this leads to selective neuronal vulnerability and dysfunction. The ubiquitin-proteasomal pathway (UPP) is poised to play a central role in the processing of damaged and toxic proteins by ubiquitin-dependent proteolysis. The UPP can be overwhelmed in several neurodegenerative diseases. This results in the accumulation of toxic proteins and the formation of inclusions, and ultimately to neuronal dysfunction and cell death. Further analysis of the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which the UPP influences the detoxification of damaged and toxic proteins in neurodegenerative diseases could provide novel concepts and targets for the treatment and understanding of the pathogenesis of these devastating disorders.
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