Parkinson’s disease-linked Parkin mutations impair glutamatergic signaling in hippocampal neurons

Zhu, Mei; Cortese, Giuseppe P.; Waites, Clarissa L.

Parkinson’s disease (PD)-associated E3 ubiquitin ligase Parkin is enriched at glutamatergic synapses, where it ubiquitinates multiple substrates, suggesting that its mutation/loss-of-function could contribute to the etiology of PD by disrupting excitatory neurotransmission. Here, we evaluate the impact of four common PD-associated Parkin point mutations (T240M, R275W, R334C, G430D) on glutamatergic synaptic function in hippocampal neurons.

We find that expression of these point mutants in cultured hippocampal neurons from Parkin-deficient and Parkin-null backgrounds alters NMDA and AMPA receptor-mediated currents and cell-surface levels and prevents the induction of long-term depression. Mechanistically, we demonstrate that Parkin regulates NMDA receptor trafficking through its ubiquitination of GluN1, and that all four mutants are impaired in this ubiquitinating activity. Furthermore, Parkin regulates synaptic AMPA receptor trafficking via its binding and retention of the postsynaptic scaffold Homer1, and all mutants are similarly impaired in this capacity.

Our findings demonstrate that pathogenic Parkin mutations disrupt glutamatergic synaptic transmission in hippocampal neurons by impeding NMDA and AMPA receptor trafficking. Such effects may contribute to the pathophysiology of PD in PARK2 patients.


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Academic Units
Pathology and Cell Biology
Published Here
February 27, 2019


Parkin, AMPAR, NMDAR, GluN1, Homer1, Parkinson’s disease, Synapse