The cause and mechanism of neuronal death in sporadic Parkinson's disease (PD) continue to elude investigators. Recently, alterations in proteasomal function have been detected in the brain of patients with the illness. The biochemical basis of the defect and its relevance to the disease process are now being studied. The available results suggest that proteasomal dysfunction could underlie protein accumulation, Lewy body formation, and neuron death in PD. The cause of proteasomal dysfunction is unknown at present, but this could relate to gene mutations, oxidative damage, ATP depletion, or the actions of environmental toxins. It remains to be established if proteasomal dysfunction plays a primary or a secondary role in the initiation or progression of the neurodegenerative process in PD.