LRRK2 phosphorylates tubulin-associated tau but not the free molecule: LRRK2-mediated regulation of the tau-tubulin association and neurite outgrowth

PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e30834. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030834. Epub 2012 Jan 27.


Leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2), a large protein kinase containing multi-functional domains, has been identified as the causal molecule for autosomal-dominant Parkinson's disease (PD). In the present study, we demonstrated for the first time that (i) LRRK2 interacts with tau in a tubulin-dependent manner; (ii) LRRK2 directly phosphorylates tubulin-associated tau, but not free tau; (iii) LRRK2 phosphorylates tau at Thr181 as one of the target sites; and (iv) The PD-associated LRRK2 mutations, G2019S and I2020T, elevated the degree of tau-phosphorylation. These results provide direct proof that tau is a physiological substrate for LRRK2. Furthermore, we revealed that LRRK2-mediated phosphorylation of tau reduces its tubulin-binding ability. Our results suggest that LRRK2 plays an important role as a physiological regulator for phosphorylation-mediated dissociation of tau from microtubules, which is an integral aspect of microtubule dynamics essential for neurite outgrowth and axonal transport.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Humans
  • Leucine-Rich Repeat Serine-Threonine Protein Kinase-2
  • Models, Biological
  • Neurites / metabolism*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Sus scrofa
  • Tubulin / metabolism*
  • tau Proteins / metabolism*


  • Tubulin
  • tau Proteins
  • LRRK2 protein, human
  • Leucine-Rich Repeat Serine-Threonine Protein Kinase-2
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases