Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Integrative Life Sciences

First Advisor

Danail G. Bonchev


Neurodegeneration is a chronic, progressive and debilitating condition that affects majority of the World's elderly population who are at greater risk. Numerous scientific studies suggest that there could be a common underlying molecular mechanism that promotes the degeneration and the subsequent neuronal loss, however so far the progress in this direction is rather limited. Abnormal protein misfoldings, as well as protein plaque formations in the brain, are some of the hallmark characteristic features of neurodegenerative disorders (NDDs). Genetic and environmental factors, oxidative stress, excessive reactive oxygen species formation, mitochondrial dysfunction, energy depletion and autophagy disruption etc. are some of the widely suspected mechanisms that manifest the cognitive, motor and emotional symptoms of these NDDs. Motivated by some molecular traits found in common in several NDDs, network-based systems biology tools and techniques were used in this study to identify critical molecular players and underlying biological processes that are common for Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Huntington's disease. Utilizing multiple microarray gene expression datasets, several biomolecular networks such as direct interaction, shortest path, and microRNA regulatory networks were constructed and analyzed for each of the disease conditions. The network-based analysis revealed 26 genes of potential interest in Parkinson's, 16 in Alzheimer's and 30 in Huntington's disease. Many new microRNA-target regulatory interactions were identified. For each disorder, several routes for possible disease initiation and protection scenarios were uncovered. A unified neurodegeneration mechanism network was constructed by utilizing the significantly differentially expressed genes found in common in Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Huntington's microarray datasets. In this integrated network many key molecular partakers and several biological processes that were significantly affected in all three NDDs were uncovered. The integrated network also revealed complex dual-level interactions that occur between disease contributing and protecting entities. Possibilities of microRNA-target interactions were explored and many such pairs of potential interest in NDDs were suggested. Investigating the integrated network mechanism, we have identified several routes for disease initiating, as well as alleviating ones that could be utilized in common for Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Huntington's disease. Finding such crucial and universal molecular players in addition to maintaining a delicate balance between neurodegeneration promoters and protectors is vital for restoring the homeostasis in the three NDDs.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2013

Included in

Life Sciences Commons