Advances in GSA-associated Parkinson's disease - Pathology, presentation and therapies

Melinda Barkhuizen*, David G. Anderson, Anne F. Grobler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


GBA mutations are to date the most common genetic risk factor for Parkinson's disease. The GBA gene encodes the lysomal hydrolase glucocerebrosidase. Whilst bi-allelic GBA mutations cause Gaucher disease, both mono- and bi-allelic mutations confer risk for Parkinson's disease. Clinically, Parkinson's disease patients with GBA mutations resemble idiopathic Parkinson's disease patients. However, these patients have a modest reduction in age-of-onset of disease and a greater incidence of cognitive decline. In some cases, GBA mutations are also responsible for familial Parkinson's disease. The accumulation of alpha-synuclein into Lewy bodies is the central neuropathological hallmark of Parkinson's disease. Pathologic GBA mutations reduce enzymatic function. A reduction in glucocerebrosidase function increases alpha-synuclein levels and propagation, which in turn inhibits glucocerebrosidase in a feed-forward cascade. This cascade is central to the neuropathology of GBA-associated Parkinson's disease. The lysosomal integral membrane protein type-2 is necessary for normal glucocerebrosidase function. Glucocerebrosidase dysfunction also increases in the accumulation of O-amyloid and amyloid-precursor protein, oxidative stress, neuronal susceptibility to metal ions, microglial and immune activation. These factors contribute to neuronal death. The Mendelian Parkinson's disease genes, Parkin and ATP13A2, intersect with glucocerebrosidase. These factors sketch a complex circuit of GBA-associated neuropathology. To clinically interfere with this circuit, central glucocerebrosidase function must be improved. Strategies based on reducing breakdown of mutant glucocerebrosidase and increasing the fraction that reaches the lysosome has shown promise. Breakdown can be reduced by interfering with the ability of heat-shock proteins to recognize mutant glucocerebrosidase. This underlies the therapeutic efficacy of certain pharmacological chaperones and histone deacetylase inhibitors. These therapies are promising for Parkinson's disease, regardless of mutation status. Recently, there has been a boom in studies investigating the role of glucocerebrosidase in the pathology of Parkinson's disease. This merits a comprehensive review of the current cell biological processes and pathological pictures involving Parkinson's disease associated with GBA mutations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-25
Number of pages20
JournalNeurochemistry International
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016


  • Glucocerebrosidase
  • Gaucher disease
  • Parkinson's disease
  • alpha-Synuclein
  • LIMP-2

Cite this