Targeting PERK signaling with the small molecule GSK2606414 prevents neurodegeneration in a model of Parkinson's disease

Gabriela Mercado, Valentina Castillo, Paulina Soto, Nélida López, Jeffrey M. Axten, Sergio P. Sardi, Jeroen J.M. Hoozemans, Claudio Hetz

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Parkinson's disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder, leading to the progressive decline of motor control due to the loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNpc). Accumulating evidence suggest that altered proteostasis is a salient feature of PD, highlighting perturbations to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), the main compartment involved in protein folding and secretion. PERK is a central ER stress sensor that enforces adaptive programs to recover homeostasis through a block of protein translation and the induction of the transcription factor ATF4. In addition, chronic PERK signaling results in apoptosis induction and neuronal dysfunction due to the repression in the translation of synaptic proteins. Here we confirmed the activation of PERK signaling in postmortem brain tissue derived from PD patients and three different rodent models of the disease. Pharmacological targeting of PERK by the oral administration of GSK2606414 demonstrated efficient inhibition of the pathway in the SNpc after experimental ER stress stimulation. GSK2606414 protected nigral-dopaminergic neurons against a PD-inducing neurotoxin, improving motor performance. The neuroprotective effects of PERK inhibition were accompanied by an increase in dopamine levels and the expression of synaptic proteins. However, GSK2606414 treated animals developed secondary effects possibly related to pancreatic toxicity. This study suggests that strategies to attenuate ER stress levels may be effective to reduce neurodegeneration in PD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-148
Number of pages13
JournalNeurobiology of Disease
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


  • ER stress
  • GSK2606414
  • ISR
  • PERK
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Proteostasis
  • UPR

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