DNA Changes Associated with Parkinson's Disease Found in Various Cell Types

Researchers found single-nucleotide polymorphisms in multiple cell types.

A recent study found that changes in DNA linked to Parkinson’s disease were discovered in brain, liver, fat, immune, and developmental cells.

“When we looked at the data, we were quite surprised to see the variation in tissue types,” said the study's corresponding author Gerry Coetzee, PhD. “Ultimately, if we can more precisely define risk factors for Parkinson's, we can develop ways to mitigate them early on. We still have a long way to go but these findings are some of the first steps down that path.”

The small changes in single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) can increase a person’s risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. SNPs located outside of genes on DNA are crucial in the regulation of gene expression, and can identify a gene’s role in a disease, according to a study published by Scientific Reports.

Researchers used information gathered from the Roadmap Epigenomics Mapping Consortium, and analyzed 21 risk areas (loci) in 77 cell types. They discovered 12 loci in various tissue types that had high amounts of SNPs.

Researchers discovered that there was 1 locus in the substantia nigra where dopamine neurons die, an event linked to Parkinson’s disease. They also found that 3 of the loci were found in immune cells, suggesting that Parkinson’s could be associated with inflammation.

“Only a small percentage of Parkinson's cases are familial and have a clear and well-defined genetic inheritance. The remaining cases develop the disease seemingly at random," said study author Patrik Brundin, MD, PhD. “The emerging view is that Parkinson's is more of a syndrome - a defined set of clinical symptoms and some shared features of brain pathology - with a diverse set of underlying causes. One surprising finding in our study is that only 1 gene locus was clearly linked to the brain while others were associated with tissues throughout the body. This supports the emerging theory that Parkinson's is a disorder that can be caused by disruptions in cellular processes in many locations, not just 1.”