Over the past decade, the baker's yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae has proven to be a useful model system to investigate fundamental questions concerning the pathogenic role of human proteins in neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's disease (PD). These so-called humanized yeast models for PD initially focused on alpha -synuclein, which plays a key role in the etiology of PD. Upon expression of this human protein in the baker's yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the events leading to aggregation and the molecular mechanisms that result in cellular toxicity are faithfully reproduced. More recently, a similar model to study the presumed pathobiology of the alpha -synuclein interaction partner synphilin-1 has been established. In this review we will discuss recent advances using these humanized yeast models, pointing to new roles for cell wall integrity signaling, Ca(2+) homeostasis, mitophagy, and the cytoskeleton.
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