Characterization of the formation of protein aggregates induced by the inhibition of the ubiquitin proteasome system

Protein aggregation is a pathological feature of a large number of diseases with a strong preponderance in age-related neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease. Failure to eliminate aberrant proteins in the cell plays a major role in these pathologies and is often linked to the impairment of the ubiquitin proteasome system, which degrades proteins labeled (or modified) with ubiquitin. The overall goal of Dr. Thibault Mayor’s research is to further define the involvement of the ubiquitin proteasome system in aggregation diseases using proteomic and cell biology approaches.

Mayor’s team has developed a new cellular assay to monitor the formation of aggregates induced by proteasome inhibition. They have identified by mass spectrometry more than 500 proteins that localize in these structures. Using a computational approach, Mayor will determine which features are shared among these proteins to give better insight into the mechanisms leading to aggregation. The UCHL1 enzyme may also be a major player in the aggregation process, and Mayor’s team will use the cell assay and mass spectrometry to further characterize UCHL1 and determine whether other enzymes related to the ubiquitin proteasome system may promote aggregation.

Current treatments for most aggregation diseases are primarily based on symptom management instead of directly treating the cause. Mayor’s work may potentially lead to a better understanding of the aggregation mechanism and identify novel targetable pathways to prevent formation or favor clearance of protein aggregates that could be used for new therapeutics.