Research Highlight

New proteins behind Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s identified

doi:10.1038/nindia.2019.36 Published online 25 March 2019

Researchers have linked specific proteins involved in copper and iron metabolism to neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease1. This finding could help design novel therapies for such brain disorders.

Recent studies had shown that alterations of copper and iron levels in the brain could cause brain disorders. In contrast, some studies have detected normal levels of copper and iron in the brains of patients afflicted with nerve diseases.  

To find out what had gone wrong in such patients, scientists from the All India Institute of Medical Science in Jodhpur, and from the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research and Panjab University, both in Chandigarh, India, set out to study the roles of proteins involved in copper and iron metabolism.    

Using Cytoscape, a software tool widely used for studying biomedical networks of protein-protein, gene-gene and other types of interactions, they probed the roles of 204 copper- and 441 iron-associated proteins in different brain disorders.  

The researchers, led by Amit Pal, narrowed their search to three proteins – osteonectin, coagulation factor V and VII – that are known to have roles in copper and iron metabolism.

They linked osteonectin to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases, and NBIA (neurodegeneration with brain iron accumulation); coagulation factor V to schizophrenia, febrile seizures and Brunner Syndrome, a genetic disorder; and coagulation factor VII to congenital hydrocephalus (build-up of excess fluid in the brain of newborns).

“This study will help in addressing the issue of limited success of clinical trials targeting copper and iron in various neurodegenerative diseases, especially Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease,” says Pal.


1. Kumar, A. et al. In silico method for identification of novel copper and iron metabolism proteins in various neurodegenerative disorders. NeuroToxicology. 73, 50-57 (2019)