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Protein misfolding and aggregation are central events in many disorders including several neurodegenerative diseases. This suggests that alterations in normal protein homeostasis may contribute to pathogenesis, but the exact molecular mechanisms involved are still poorly understood. The budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is one of the model systems of choice for studies in molecular medicine. Modeling human neurodegenerative diseases in this simple organism has already shown the incredible power of yeast to unravel the complex mechanisms and pathways underlying these pathologies. Indeed, this work has led to the identification of several potential therapeutic targets and drugs for many diseases, including the neurodegenerative diseases. Several features associated with these diseases, such as formation of protein aggregates, cellular toxicity mediated by misfolded proteins, oxidative stress and hallmarks of apoptosis have been faithfully recapitulated in yeast, enabling researchers to take advantage of this powerful model to rapidly perform genetic and compound screens with the aim of identifying novel candidate therapeutic targets and drugs. Here we review the work undertaken to model human brain disorders in yeast, and how these models provide insight into novel therapeutic approaches for these diseases.
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