The candidate is an M.D./Ph.D neurologist who is currently a trainee in the Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research. His goal is to develop additional research skills and experience needed to become an independent clinician scientist working to understand the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases. The proposed research project focuses on neurodegeneration with brain iron accumulation (NBIA), which causes progressive impairment of speech, movement and cognition. At the neuropathological level, NBIA is characterized by iron accumulation, inclusion formation, signs of oxidative stress, and death of multiple neuronal populations. These features are also seen to varying degrees in other neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. Mutations in the gene for pantothenate kinase 2 (PanK2) were recently identified in a subset of NBIA cases. The PanK2 gene encodes an enzyme involved in coenzyme A (CoA) synthesis, a critical pathway linked to a number of cellular processes, including fatty acid synthesis, energy production, and possibly, synthesis of anti-oxidant molecules. The long term objectives of this project are to understand how PanK2 mutations lead to iron accumulation, oxidative stress, inclusion formation, and neuronal death. The proteolytic processing, mitochondrial localization and in vitro catalytic properties will by characterized for mutant Pank2 proteins and compared to the wild type human PanK2 protein. Cell culture systems will be established in which PanK2 expression is eliminated and in which wild type or mutant PanK2 proteins are over-expressed. Mice that lack PanK2 expression will also be generated. Cell lines and mice lacking PanK2 expression will be examined for changes in levels of biochemical intermediates hypothesized to be dependent on PanK2 function. Finally, neuronal and non-neuronal cells lacking PanK2 will be examined for signs of increased oxidative stress, susceptibility to oxidative injury, cellular and mitochondrial import of radio labeled iron, and inclusion formation.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Clinical Investigator Award (CIA) (K08)
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NST-2 Subcommittee (NST)
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Murphy, Diane
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Washington University
Schools of Medicine
Saint Louis
United States
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