Lafora disease (LD, OMIM254780) is a rare and fatal form of progressive myoclonus epilepsy (PME). Among PMEs, LD is unique because of the rapid neurological deterioration of the patients and the appearance in brain and peripheral tissues of insoluble glycogen-like (polyglucosan) inclusions, named Lafora bodies (LBs). LD is caused by mutations in the EPM2A
gene, encoding the dual phosphatase laforin, or the EPM2B
gene, encoding the E3-ubiquitin ligase malin. Laforin and malin form a functional complex that is involved in the regulation of glycogen synthesis. Thus, in the absence of a functional complex glycogen accumulates in LBs. In addition, it has been suggested that the laforin-malin complex participates in alternative physiological pathways, such as intracellular protein degradation, oxidative stress, and the endoplasmic reticulum unfolded protein response. In this work we review the possible cellular functions of laforin and malin with a special focus on their role in the ubiquitination of specific substrates. We also discuss here the pathological consequences of defects in laforin or malin functions, as well as the therapeutic strategies that are being explored for LD.
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