Copper is a biometal essential for normal brain development and function, thus copper deficiency or excess results in central nervous system disease. Well-characterized disorders of disrupted copper homoeostasis with neuronal degeneration include Menkes disease and Wilson's disease but a large body of evidence also implicates disrupted copper pathways in other neurodegenerative disorders, including Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Huntington's disease and prion diseases. In this short review we critically evaluate the data regarding changes in systemic and brain copper levels in Parkinson's disease, where alterations in brain copper are associated with regional neuronal cell death and disease pathology. We review copper regulating mechanisms in the human brain and the effects of dysfunction within these systems. We then examine the evidence for a role for copper in pathogenic processes in Parkinson's disease and consider reports of diverse copper-modulating strategies in in vitro and in vivo models of this disorder. Copper-modulating therapies are currently advancing through clinical trials for Alzheimer's and Huntington's disease and may also hold promise as disease modifying agents in Parkinson's disease.

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