Phytochemicals Bridging Autophagy Induction and Alpha-Synuclein Degradation in Parkinsonism

Fiona Limanaqi, Francesca Biagioni, Carla Letizia Busceti, Larisa Ryskalin, Maico Polzella, Alessandro Frati, Francesco Fornai

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Among nutraceuticals, phytochemical-rich compounds represent a source of naturally-derived bioactive principles, which are extensively studied for potential beneficial effects in a variety of disorders ranging from cardiovascular and metabolic diseases to cancer and neurodegeneration. In the brain, phytochemicals produce a number of biological effects such as modulation of neurotransmitter activity, growth factor induction, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, stem cell modulation/neurogenesis, regulation of mitochondrial homeostasis, and counteracting protein aggregation through modulation of protein-folding chaperones and the cell clearing systems autophagy and proteasome. In particular, the ability of phytochemicals in restoring proteostasis through autophagy induction took center stage in recent research on neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease (PD). Indeed, autophagy dysfunctions and α-syn aggregation represent two interdependent downstream biochemical events, which concur in the parkinsonian brain, and which are targeted by phytochemicals administration. Therefore, in the present review we discuss evidence about the autophagy-based neuroprotective effects of specific phytochemical-rich plants in experimental parkinsonism, with a special focus on their ability to counteract alpha-synuclein aggregation and toxicity. Although further studies are needed to confirm the autophagy-based effects of some phytochemicals in parkinsonism, the evidence discussed here suggests that rescuing autophagy through natural compounds may play a role in preserving dopamine (DA) neuron integrity by counteracting the aggregation, toxicity, and prion-like spreading of α-syn, which remains a hallmark of PD.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - Jul 3 2019


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