LRRK2-mediated neurodegeneration and dysfunction of dopaminergic neurons in a Caenorhabditis elegans model of Parkinson's disease

Neurobiol Dis. 2010 Oct;40(1):73-81. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2010.04.002. Epub 2010 Apr 9.


Mutations in LRRK2 are thus far the most frequent known cause of autosomal dominant and idiopathic Parkinson's disease (PD) with prevalent mutations being found within the GTPase (R1441C/G) and kinase (G2019S) domains. Previous in vitro studies have revealed that R1441C and G2019S mutations are associated with increased kinase activity. To better understand LRRK2-linked PD pathogenesis in vivo, we have generated transgenic C. elegans overexpressing human LRRK2 wild type, R1441C and G2019S in dopaminergic (DA) neurons. Overexpression of these LRRK2 proteins causes age-dependent DA neurodegeneration, behavioral deficits, and locomotor dysfunction that are accompanied by a reduction of dopamine levels in vivo. In comparison, R1441C and G2019S mutants cause more severe phenotypes than the wild type protein. Interestingly, treatment with exogenous dopamine rescues the LRRK2-induced behavioral and locomotor phenotypes. In contrast, expression of the GTP binding defective mutant, K1347A, or knockout of the C. elegans LRRK2 homolog, LRK-1, prevents the LRRK2-induced neurodegeneration and behavioral abnormalities. Hence, our transgenic LRRK2 C. elegans models recapitulate key features of PD including progressive neurodegeneration, impairment of dopamine-dependent behavior and locomotor function, and reduction in dopamine levels. Furthermore, our findings provide strong support for the critical role of GTPase/kinase activity in LRRK2-linked pathologies. These invertebrate models will be useful for studying pathogenesis of PD and for development of potential therapeutics for the disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Leucine-Rich Repeat Serine-Threonine Protein Kinase-2
  • Nerve Degeneration / metabolism*
  • Nerve Degeneration / pathology*
  • Nervous System Diseases / metabolism*
  • Nervous System Diseases / pathology*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Parkinson Disease / metabolism*
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / physiology*


  • LRRK2 protein, human
  • Leucine-Rich Repeat Serine-Threonine Protein Kinase-2
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Dopamine