A previous article on the integrative modelling of Parkinson's disease (PD) described a mathematical model with properties that suggested that PD pathogenesis is associated with a feedback-induced biochemical bistability. In this article we show that the dynamics of the mathematical model can be extracted and distilled into an equivalent 2-state feedback motif whose stability properties are controlled by multi-factorial combinations of risk factors and genetic mutations associated with PD. Based on this finding, we propose a principle for PD pathogenesis in the form of the switch-like transition of a bistable feedback process from 'healthy' homeostatic levels of reactive oxygen species and the protein α-synuclein, to an alternative 'disease' state in which concentrations of both molecules are stable at the damagingly high levels associated with PD. The bistability is analysed using the rate curves and steady-state response characteristics of the feedback motif. In particular, we show how a bifurcation in the feedback motif marks the pathogenic moment at which the 'healthy' state is lost and the 'disease' state is initiated. Further analysis shows how known risks (such as: age, toxins and genetic predisposition) modify the stability characteristics of the feedback motif in a way that is compatible with known features of PD, and which explain properties such as: multi-factorial causality, variability in susceptibility and severity, multi-timescale progression and the special cases of familial Parkinson's and Parkinsonian symptoms induced purely by toxic stress.
Published December 2012 , 18 pages