Research ArticleParkinson’s Disease

Ser1292 Autophosphorylation Is an Indicator of LRRK2 Kinase Activity and Contributes to the Cellular Effects of PD Mutations

Science Translational Medicine  12 Dec 2012:
Vol. 4, Issue 164, pp. 164ra161
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3004485

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Genetic polymorphisms in the leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) are the most common causes of familial Parkinson’s disease (PD) and are also linked to idiopathic PD. The most prevalent LRRK2 PD mutation G2019S imbues the kinase with a gain of function, suggesting that blocking LRRK2 activity may be a therapeutic strategy for reversing the pathogenic effects of LRRK2 mutations in PD. However, the mechanistic link between LRRK2 kinase activity and the cellular effects of PD mutations remains elusive, and there has been no reliable way to monitor LRRK2 kinase activity in vivo.

Using quantitative mass spectrometry and subsequent phospho-specific antibody approaches, Sheng et al. now report that LRRK2 phosphorylates itself on Ser1292 in vitro and in vivo (Ser1292 autophosphorylation). Five of the six confirmed familial LRRK2 PD mutations increased Ser1292 autophosphorylation when transiently expressed in heterologous cells, suggesting increased Ser1292 autophosphorylation as a common feature of LRRK2 PD mutations. Elimination of the Ser1292 autophosphorylation site abrogated the defects on neurite outgrowth caused by LRRK2 PD mutations in cultured rat embryonic neurons. Using Ser1292 autophosphorylation as the readout of kinase activity, Sheng et al. developed assays to monitor LRRK2 kinase activity in cultured cells and rodents. These assays were used to profile the potencies of hundreds of LRRK2 kinase inhibitors derived from high-throughput compound screening. A potent and selective compound that effectively inhibited LRRK2 kinase activity in mouse brains and reversed cellular effects of LRRK2 PD mutations in cultured primary neurons was identified.