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Scientists find way to block stress-related cell death

June 3, 2011

Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute have uncovered a potentially important new therapeutic target that could prevent stress-related cell death, a characteristic of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, as well as heart attack and stroke.

The scientists showed they could disrupt a specific interaction of a critical enzyme that would prevent cell death without harming other important enzyme functions. c-jun-N-terminal kinase (JNK), pronounced “junk,” has been implicated in many processes in the body’s response to stresses, such as oxidative stress, protein misfolding, and metabolic disorder. JNK also plays an important role in nerve cell survival and has become a target for drugs to treat neurodegenerative disorders

The team was able to block JNK mitochondrial interaction without harming any other important enzyme processes, such as JNK’s impact on gene expression. These findings suggest that this interaction could be exploited in the development of a new drug, the scientists said.

Jeremy W. Chambers, Lisa Cherry, et al., Selective Inhibition of Mitochondrial JNK Signaling Achieved Using Peptide Mimicry of the Sab Kinase Interacting Motif-1 (KIM1), ACS Chemical Biology, 2011;110524104023011 [DOI: 10.1021/cb200062a]

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