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Aim for the core: suitability of the ubiquitin-independent 20S proteasome as a drug target in neurodegeneration


Neurodegenerative diseases are a class of age-associated proteopathies characterized by the accumulation of misfolded and/or aggregation-prone proteins. This imbalance has been attributed, in part, to an age-dependent decay in the capacity of protein turnover. Most proteins are degraded by the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS), which is composed of ubiquitin ligases and regulatory particles, such as the 19S, that deliver cargo to the proteolytically active 20S proteasome (20S) core. However, a subset of clients, especially intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs), are also removed by the action of the ubiquitin-independent proteasome system (UIPS). What are the specific contributions of the UPS and UIPS in the context of neurodegeneration? Here, we explore how age-associated changes in the relative contribution of the UPS and UIPS, combined with the IDP-like structure of many neurodegenerative disease-associated proteins, might contribute. Strikingly, the 20S has been shown to predominate in older neurons and to preferentially act on relevant substrates, such as synuclein and tau. Moreover, pharmacological activation of the 20S has been shown to accelerate removal of aggregation-prone proteins in some models. Together, these recent studies are turning attention to the 20S and the UIPS as potential therapeutic targets in neurodegeneration.

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