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Biological Chemistry

Male gene may be linked to Parkinson's

February 27, 2006 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 84, Issue 9

The Sry gene responsible for causing embryos to develop as male may also have a role in Parkinson's disease, a finding that could explain why the disease strikes more men than women (Curr. Biol. 2006, 16, 415). In Parkinson's, dopamine-producing cells in the brain's substantia nigra are killed. University of California, Los Angeles, geneticist Eric Vilain and colleagues found that Sry is expressed in this same region of the brain in male rodents. In fact, Sry is expressed in the same neurons that release tyrosine hydroxylase, a protein that is necessary for the production of dopamine. When the researchers used antisense technology to reduce Sry expression in rats, tyrosine hydroxylase output dropped, but only in males. The male rats then developed Parkinson's symptoms. The researchers think that Sry serves as a protective agent against the disease: Men who get Parkinson's disease may have lower levels of the gene in their brains. Vilain's team is now testing whether estrogen offers similar protection to women.


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