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It is well established that lysosomal glucocerebrosidase gene (GBA) variants are a risk factor for Parkinson's disease (PD), with increasing evidence suggesting a loss of function mechanism. One question raised by this genetic association is whether variants of genes involved in other aspects of sphingolipid metabolism are also associated with PD. Recent studies in sporadic PD have identified variants in multiple genes linked to diseases of glycosphingolipid (GSL) metabolism to be associated with PD. GSL biosynthesis is a complex pathway involving the coordinated action of multiple enzymes in the Golgi apparatus. GSL catabolism takes place in the lysosome and is dependent on the action of multiple acid hydrolases specific for certain substrates and glycan linkages. The finding that variants in multiple GSL catabolic genes are over-represented in PD in a heterozygous state highlights the importance of GSLs in the healthy brain and how lipid imbalances and lysosomal dysfunction are associated with normal ageing and neurodegenerative diseases. In this article we will explore the link between lysosomal storage disorders and PD, the GSL changes seen in both normal ageing, lysosomal storage disorders (LSDs) and PD and the mechanisms by which these changes can affect neurodegeneration.

Original publication




Journal article


Glycoconj J

Publication Date



Ageing, GBA, Gangliosides, Glycosphingolipid (GSL), Lysosomal storage disease (LSD), Parkinson’s disease (PD)