Mutation of leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) is the leading genetic cause of Parkinson's Disease (PD), manifested as age-dependent dopaminergic neurodegeneration, but the underlying molecular mechanisms remain unclear. Multiple roles of LRRK2 may contribute to dopaminergic neurodegeneration. Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress has also been linked to PD pathogenesis, but its interactive mechanism with PD genetic factors is largely unknown. Here, we used C. elegans, human neuroblastoma cells and murine cortical neurons to determine the role of LRRK2 in maintaining dopaminergic neuron viability. We found that LRRK2 acts to protect neuroblastoma cells and C. elegans dopaminergic neurons from the toxicity of 6-hydroxydopamine and/or human α-synuclein, possibly through the p38 pathway, by supporting upregulation of GRP78, a key cell survival molecule during ER stress. A pathogenic LRRK2 mutant (G2019S), however, caused chronic p38 activation that led to death of murine neurons and age-related dopaminergic-specific neurodegeneration in nematodes. These observations establish a critical functional link between LRRK2 and ER stress.
Yuan, Y., Cao, P., Smith, M. A., Kramp, K., Huang, Y., Hisamoto, N., … Feng, Z. (2011). Dysregulated LRRK2 signaling in response to endoplasmic reticulum stress leads to dopaminergic neuron degeneration in C. elegans. PLoS ONE, 6(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0022354