Many human inherited neurodegenerative disorders are characterized by loss of balance due to cerebellar Purkinje cell (PC) degeneration. Although the disease-causing mutations have been identified for a number of these disorders, the normal functions of the proteins involved remain, in many cases, unknown. To gain insight into the function of proteins involved in PC degeneration, we developed an interaction network for 54 proteins involved in 23 inherited ataxias and expanded the network by incorporating literature-curated and evolutionarily conserved interactions. We identified 770 mostly novel protein-protein interactions using a stringent yeast two-hybrid screen; of 75 pairs tested, 83% of the interactions were verified in mammalian cells. Many ataxia-causing proteins share interacting partners, a subset of which have been found to modify neurodegeneration in animal models. This interactome thus provides a tool for understanding pathogenic mechanisms common for this class of neurodegenerative disorders and for identifying candidate genes for inherited ataxias.
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