Background: Recent studies show that mutations in Leucine Rich Repeat Kinase 2 (LRRK2) are the cause of the most common inherited and some sporadic forms of Parkinson's disease (PD). The molecular mechanism underlying the pathogenic role of LRRK2 mutations in PD remains unknown.
Methodology/principal findings: Using affinity purification and mass spectrometric analysis, we investigated phosphorylation sites and binding proteins of LRRK2 purified from mouse brain. We identified multiple phosphorylation sites at N-terminus of LRRK2 including S910, S912, S935 and S973. Focusing on the high stoichiometry S935 phosphorylation site, we developed an anti-pS935 specific antibody and showed that LRRK2 is constitutively phosphorylated at S935 in various tissues (including brain) and at different ages in mice. We find that 14-3-3 proteins (especially isoforms γ and η) bind LRRK2 and this binding depends on phosphorylation of S935. The binding of 14-3-3, with little effect on dimer formation of LRRK2, confers protection of the phosphorylation status of S935. Furthermore, we show that protein kinase A (PKA), but not LRRK2 kinase itself, can cause the phosphorylation of LRRK2 at S935 in vitro and in cell culture, suggesting that PKA is a potential upstream kinase that regulates LRRK2 function. Finally, our study indicates that the common PD-related mutations of LRRK2, R1441G, Y1699C and G2019S, decrease homeostatic phosphorylation levels of S935 and impair 14-3-3 binding of LRRK2.
Conclusions/significance: LRRK2 is extensively phosphorylated in vivo, and the phosphorylation of specific sites (e.g. S935) determines 14-3-3 binding of LRRK2. We propose that 14-3-3 is an important regulator of LRRK2-mediated cellular functions. Our study suggests that PKA, a cAMP-dependent kinase involved in regulating dopamine physiology, is a potential upstream kinase that phosphorylates LRRK2 at S935. Furthermore, the reduction of phosphorylation/14-3-3 binding of LRRK2 due to the common familial PD-related mutations provides novel insight into the pathogenic mechanism of LRRK2-linked PD.