Pathologies of neurological diseases are increasingly recognized to have common structural and molecular events that can fit, sometimes loosely, into a central pathological theme. A better understanding of the genetic, proteomic and metabolic similarities between three common neurodegenerative diseases – Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) – and how these similarities relate to their unique pathological features may shed more light on the underlying pathology of each. These are complex multigenic neuroinflammatory diseases caused by a combined action by multiple genetic mutations, lifestyle factors and environmental elements including a proposed contribution by transition metals. This comprehensive dynamic makes disease decoding and treatment difficult.
One case of ALS, for example, can manifest from a very different pool of genetic mutations than another. In the case of ALS multiple genes in addition to SOD1 are implicated in the pathogenesis of both sporadic and familial variants of the disease. These genes play different roles in the processing and trafficking of signalling, metabolic and structural proteins. However, many of these genetic mutations or the cellular machinery they regulate can play a role in one form or another in PD and AD as well. In addition, the more recent understanding of how TREM-2 mutations factor into inflammatory response has shed new light on how chronic inflammatory activity can escalate to uncontrolled systemic levels in a variety of inflammatory diseases from neurodegenerative, auto-inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. TREM-2 mutations represent yet another complicating element in these multigenic disease pathologies.
This review takes us one step back to discuss basic pathological features of these neurodegenerative diseases known to us for some time. However, the objective is to discuss the possibility of related or linked mechanisms that may exist through these basic disease hallmarks that we often classify as absolute signatures of one disease. These new perspectives will be discussed in the context of a new paradigm for Alzheimer’s disease that implicates heavy metals as a primary cause. Plausible links between these distinctly different pathologies are presented showing intersections of their distinct pathologies that hinge on metal interactions.