Today, Alzheimer's disease (AD) is one of the most important age-related neurodegenerative diseases, but its etiology remains still unknown. Since the discovery that the hallmark structures of this disease i.e. the formation of amyloid fibers could be the product of ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation defects, it has become clear that the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS), usually essential for protein repair, turnover and degradation, is perturbed in this disease. Different aspects of normal and pathological aging are discussed with respect to protein repair and degradation via the UPS, as well as consequences of a deficit in the UPS in AD. Selective protein oxidation may cause protein damage, or protein mutations may induce a dysfunction of the proteasome. Such events eventually lead to activation of cell death pathways and to an aberrant aggregation or incorporation of ubiquitinated proteins into hallmark structures. Aggresome formation is also observed in other neurodegenerative diseases, suggesting that an activation of similar mechanisms must occur in neurodegeneration as a basic phenomenon. It is essential to discuss therapeutic ways to investigate the UPS dysfunction in the human brain and to identify specific targets to hold or stop cell decay
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