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The ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) is a crucial protein degradation system in eukaryotes. Herein, we will review advances in the understanding of the role of several proteins of the UPS in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and functional recovery after spinal cord injury (SCI). The UPS consists of many factors that include E3 ubiquitin ligases, ubiquitin hydrolases, ubiquitin and ubiquitin-like molecules, and the proteasome itself. An extensive body of work links UPS dysfunction with AD pathogenesis and progression. More recently, the UPS has been shown to have vital roles in recovery of function after SCI. The ubiquitin hydrolase (Uch-L1) has been proposed to increase cellular levels of mono-ubiquitin and hence to increase rates of protein turnover by the UPS. A low Uch-L1 level has been linked with Ab accumulation in AD and reduced neuroregeneration after SCI. One likely mechanism for these beneficial effects of Uch-L1 is reduced turnover of the PKA regulatory subunit and consequently, reduced signaling via CREB. The neuron-specific F-box protein Fbx2 ubiquitinates b-secretase thus targeting it for proteasomal degradation and reducing generation of Ab. Both Uch-L1 and Fbx2 improve synaptic plasticity and cognitive function in mouse AD models. The role of Fbx2 after SCI has not been examined, but abolishing ß-secretase reduces neuronal recovery after SCI, associated with reduced myelination. UBB+1, which arises through a frame-shift mutation in the ubiquitin gene that adds 19 amino acids to the C-terminus of ubiquitin, inhibits proteasomal function and is associated with increased neurofibrillary tangles in patients with AD, Pick’s disease and Down’s syndrome. These advances in understanding of the roles of the UPS in AD and SCI raise new questions but, also, identify attractive and exciting targets for potential, future therapeutic interventions.


This article was originally published in frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, available at doi: 10.3389/fnmol.2016.00004.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY).



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